I'm going to go out on a limb here: The Avalanche definitely won't lose again for at least the next two weeks.

This is less certain, but likely: One of the four Colorado players scheduled to suit up in the Sochi Games during the NHL shutdown will return from Russia with a gold medal — in order of probability, Matt Duchene (Canada), Gabe Landeskog (Sweden), Semyon Varlamov (Russia) and Paul Stastny (United States).

On Feb. 26, when the Avalanche resumes the league schedule with a home date against the Los Angeles Kings, that gold or other medal finishes might even be acknowledged in a brief pregame ceremony.

But you know that on the Colorado bench, Patrick Roy is going to be a bit restless. He'll be wanting to get back to, well, his and his players' "real" jobs.

The Avalanche coach has said all the right things about what an honor this is for his players and hoping they have great experiences. But as a member of the 1998 Canadian Olympic team that lost in a famous shootout to the Czech Republic in the semifinals, then also lost to Finland in the bronze-medal game, he also has hinted that the emotional high point in February contributed to the Avalanche's playoff collapse that spring in the first round against Edmonton. That year, Colorado had nine players and coach Marc Crawford at the Winter Games in Nagano, representing six nations.

This time, if Roy's top defensive pair — Erik Johnson (U.S.) and Jan Hejda (Czech Republic) — had been selected for return Olympic trips after playing for their home nations in 2010, it would have been more of a potential "problem." But they weren't, so they in theory will be fresh as they go through the Avalanche's closing stretch of 24 games in 47 nights, usually matched against opposing top lines. And depending on how much Varlamov plays in the Russian net, and how he plays, the hope is that he returns sharpened, not scarred or drained, by the experience.

It would take a collapse down the stretch for the surprising Avalanche not to make the playoffs. While it was reasonable to assume Colorado would be better this season because of Roy's hiring and the continued maturation of the young core, predicting last September that the Avalanche would have 79 points and be sitting sixth overall in the NHL at the Olympic break should have triggered laughter.

In the wake of the realignment and the tweaking of the playoff format, the Avalanche seems destined to meet Chicago or St. Louis in a matchup of the Central Division's No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the first round.

Acknowledging hockey's most important postseason variable — goaltending, either good or bad, can erase all "chalk" and mock seedings — it's hard to imagine a scenario under which even the most ardent of hockey-first fans will be roasting the Avalanche after a first-round exit, if that's what happens. One thing we know: The Avs will show up.

If there's a potential problem, though, it's tied to the coaching staff's most stunning and perhaps underplayed accomplishment. Behind Johnson and Hejda, Colorado has gotten by with a defensive corps that, especially after Cory Sarich was sidelined with a back injury last month, has overachieved most nights but has been exposed as seriously flawed on others. It's impossible not to salute and even root for minor-league journeymen, including Nate Guenin, Nick Holden and Andre Benoit, getting their chances and most of the time rewarding Roy for his faith and for, in a weird way, validating the system taught by Roy and assistant Andre Tourigny.

But those flaws are likely to be more noticeable in the increased tensions, stakes and physical play of the postseason.

That's the major reason why it wouldn't be "tinkering" with success if the Avalanche makes a major deal to land another high-level defenseman after the Olympics and before the March 5 trading deadline. Colorado still has seven natural centers, and while shifting around has worked and isn't unusual, it means that one of those centers could be dealt and not leave a huge hole. Yes, the major candidate is Stastny, for several reasons.

The other variable in this is whether the Avalanche is willing to make the sort of deal Pierre La- croix loved in the glory years — giving up prospects or draft choices for a "rental" player on the verge of unrestricted free agency, who in theory could be re-signed here in the offseason.

This team is being built for the long haul, not this single playoff run. But a move or two, recognizing the potential Achilles', would help Colorado down the road too.

Terry Frei: tfrei@ denver post.com