Avalanche eliminate Blackhawks from playoff race by beating Oilers

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Nathan MacKinnon and the Avalanche still have work to do to win a wild-card spot, but they knocked the Blackhawks out of the race tonight. David Zalubowski/AP

The Blackhawks stuck around in the playoff hunt to the final week of the season, but they were eliminated tonight with the Avalanche’s 6-2 win over the Oilers.

The victory moved the Avalanche to 88 points, leaving the Hawks eight out with three games remaining. The Wild are also eliminated, trailing by five points with two games left, so the race is down to the Avalanche and Coyotes.

The Hawks hung in later than last season, when they went 33-39-10. The team can still finish above .500 in points percentage this season and goes into the final three games at 34-33-12. They host the Blues on Wednesday, the Stars on Friday and visit the Predators on Saturday.

They still had an incredibly slim chance after losing 4-3 in overtime to the Jets on Monday, but needed to win out in regulation or overtime and have the Avalanche lose their remaining games in regulation. When presented with the unlikelihood of that happening, coach Jeremy Colliton brushed it aside.

“Doesn’t concern me,” he said. “I just want us to play well. I want us to perform to our highest level. That’s how we’re going to move this thing forward, and let the results fall as they may.”

Colliton was insistent on going all out until mathematical elimination, but now that the playoffs are officially out of reach for the Hawks, it could be time to shift playing time to the younger players and potentially retiring veterans Chris Kunitz and Cam Ward.

The Hawks started 6-6-3 under Joel Quenneville before the team brought Colliton in and eventually plummeted to 9-18-5 in mid-December.

They turned it around and went 17-8-4 to briefly take possession of the second wild card Feb. 20. They struggled to keep it going at the end and have gone 8-7-3 since.

The Hawks slipped to eight points out in early March, then won five straight. They were within four points March 21 before splitting a weekend back-to-back against the Avalanche (the Hawks’ win was in overtime, so the Avalanche out-gained them three points to two).

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