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Roger Phillips | correspondent
Feb 8, 2007, 12:00 PM EST

It has seemed for much of the season that all five teams in the Northwest Division would remain in the playoff race all the way until the end of the season.

And it still might turn out that way. But on the other hand, with less than 30 games now remaining in the schedule, two teams – the Oilers and Avalanche – are beginning to tread in very dangerous territory. They are a bad week or two from being in very big trouble.

It would be a very strange situation if neither of those teams reached the postseason.

If the Oilers miss, it will mean they went from reaching the Stanley Cup Final one season to missing the playoffs the next. If the Avalanche does not make the playoffs, it will be the first time they’ve missed since well before they moved from Quebec to Denver before the start of the 1995-96 season.

Both teams are still adjusting to changes made in the last off-season. The Oilers, of course, traded star defenseman Chris Pronger to the Anaheim Ducks and are still adjusting to his absence. The Avalanche, who rallied for a key 5-4 home overtime win over Florida on Tuesday, is without two key players from last season – defenseman Rob Blake (Los Angeles) and winger Alex Tanguay (Calgary).

This is a tricky point in the season for general managers of borderline playoff teams like Edmonton and Colorado. The NHL trading deadline is on Feb. 27, less than three weeks from now. The top three teams in the division – Vancouver, Calgary and Minnesota – all would have to be viewed as buyers as the deadline approaches, because all three are likely to be in range of the playoffs when the deadline arrives.

It will be interesting, however, to see which direction the other two teams choose. Edmonton and Colorado are getting to a point where with a bad couple weeks, realistic hopes of making the playoffs could disappear, in which case they could become sellers.

Right now, though, it’s too early for any Northwest team to start looking to next year. But that could change in the not-too-distant future.

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