PAT GRAHAM Associated Press DENVER -
Captain Joe Sakic's not panicking. So his Colorado Avalanche teammates won't either - not yet at least.
But Colorado's playoff streak is in serious jeopardy. The Avalanche have made the postseason every season except the strike year since moving to town in 1995.
Now, the Avs find themselves at the bottom of the Northwest Division and 10 points out of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.
The climb back into the playoff picture is as steep as Mount Everest, especially with 12 of Colorado's remaining 19 games on the road.
"You try not to panic," Colorado's Ian Laperriere said. "Joe's not. Everyone is following that. Everyone feels that Joe's in control. If the big boy is in control, everyone should be in control."
With three games remaining with Vancouver (third place in the conference with 77 points) two with Minnesota (seventh, 75) and three with Calgary (eighth, 73), Sakic is conceding nothing, although his team has just 63 points.
"When you've got that many games in your division, you've got a shot," Sakic said.
As for the playoff streak, it's not weighing on him. Sakic is the only holdover from the 1996 Avalanche team that won the first of two Stanley Cup titles in Denver.
"Guys are worrying about playing hockey, not the past," Sakic said. "There's no more pressure (due to the streak) than we've already put on ourselves. We're trying to get in. That's it."
Some of the Colorado players may be feeling a little jittery as the NHL's trade deadline looms. Teams had until Tuesday at 1 p.m. MST to construct and finish deals. The Avalanche were potential players in the market - either selling or buying.
"If Wayne (Gretzky) can get traded, anyone can," Laperriere said of The Great One, who was dealt once to Los Angeles (from Edmonton) and then again to St. Louis. "It made everyone realize that if he can get traded twice, you can get traded."
But Laperriere doesn't think that even though the Avalanche are free-falling from the playoff picture - they've lost five of their last six games - the team will do anything too drastic.
"I don't think it's going to be a fire sale," Laperriere said. "We've got young guys, a lot of good veterans. They (trade rumors) are something you have to deal with every year. They pay me to play, not manage the team. We'll see. It's good gossip."
With speculation that defenseman John-Michael Liles, forward Marek Svatos, even Milan Hejduk could be moved, even Sakic, the face of the franchise, wasn't immune to trade rumors.
Colorado coach Joel Quenneville gets a kick out of all the stuff he hears this time of year.
"You hear a lot of speculation on television or on the Internet or in the press," Quenneville said. "You're accustomed to a lot of speculation, a lot of maybes. I think we're all aware what's around or out there, and the names being mentioned. As players, you still have to focus."
Quenneville isn't concerned with the speculation nearly as much as with team morale. The Avalanche have yet to string together more than three wins all season. In contrast, last season they had an eight-game winning streak. The team once had a 12-game winning streak in 1999, and it might take something Herculean like that to catch up to the eighth spot.
"Hopefully we can grab (momentum)," Quenneville said.
If Colorado doesn't find some momentum soon, the playoff run could be finished just the way the team's NHL-record 487 consecutive sellout streak ended earlier this season,
"You expect to make the playoffs," Hejduk said. "This is a franchise that makes the playoffs every year."
Sakic refuses to think about sitting home for the first round. He can't even comprehend a scenario of not beginning the journey toward the Stanley Cup.
"The only thing we're thinking about is making the playoffs," Sakic said. "We're not thinking about not making it."