Ducks-Avalanche Preview


The Anaheim Ducks have the best record in the NHL since the start of 2012, and they show no signs of slowing down.

A game in Denver on Monday night could help the Ducks continue their improbable playoff push.

Anaheim goes for its seventh consecutive road victory over the Colorado Avalanche, who are also trying to climb back into the Western Conference playoff picture.

As many as 20 points out of a playoff spot earlier this season, the Ducks (27-25-10) have gone 17-4-4 since Jan. 1 to climb within six points of eighth-place Dallas. Making a quick stop home after a 5-1-2 trip that was the longest continuous stretch away from home in franchise history, the Ducks defeated Chicago 3-1 on Sunday in Anaheim.

Despite their surge, the Ducks still have several teams to leapfrog - including 10th-place Colorado (32-27-4). Anaheim remains 13th in the West.

"We take every win we can get right now, (but) nobody seems to want to lose that is going for the playoffs in the West,'' said Bruce Boudreau, 20-12-6 since taking over coaching duties from the fired Randy Carlyle. "We're going to have to try to do it ourselves."

Having Teemu Selanne on the ice as much as possible might be a good way to do that. The 41-year-old, who leads the Ducks with 55 points, netted a power-play goal and set up Sheldon Brookbank's tally Sunday to move past Luc Robitaille for 20th on the NHL's career points list with 1,395.

Jari Kurri is 19th with 1,398.

"I'm enjoying every second of (this recent surge)," Selanne told the Ducks' official Twitter account. "Going through tough times makes the turnaround better. That's why you play."

The Ducks, 9-2-3 away from home since losing a franchise-record 13 straight road games, have not dropped a game in Denver since a 1-0 loss March 6, 2008. Anaheim outscored the Avs 9-2 in two visits in 2010-11.

Colorado, though, has outscored its opponents 13-6 while winning its last three home games. The Avalanche won their third straight overall on Saturday, 4-3 at Central Division-leading Detroit.

"We're just happy to come in here and get two points,'' said rookie forward Gabriel Landeskog, who scored a pair of goals against the Red Wings and has eight points in his last five games.

The Avs must be thrilled with the production of Steve Downie, who has two goals and five points since being acquired from Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Downie could be especially important Monday if Milan Hejduk misses a second straight game with a groin injury.

Colorado will also be without two other forwards, as the club dealt Daniel Winnik and T.J. Galiardi to San Jose on Monday for forward Jamie McGinn and two prospects.

Winnik has five goals and 13 assists in 63 games, while Galiardi scored eight goals with six assists this season.

Hejduk had a team-best three goals as the Avs and Ducks split two meetings in Anaheim earlier this season.

The Ducks' Jonas Hiller turned aside 65 of 71 shots in those contests, and he's expected to make a 22nd consecutive start Monday - one shy of the club record.

Hiller has gone 3-0-0 with a 2.34 goals-against average in his last three starts in Denver, the last coming Dec. 22, 2009.

It's uncertain if Avalanche coach Joe Sacco will have Semyon Varlamov in net to face Anaheim for the first time in 2011-12.

Former Duck Jean-Sebastien Giguere started for Colorado in each of the first two meetings. He stopped 15 shots in a 3-2 loss Jan. 22 and made 18 saves in a 4-2 victory Jan. 31 that snapped Anaheim's six-game winning streak in the series.

Colorado is seeking its first four-game home winning streak since an eight-game run Nov. 30-Dec. 23 - the longest for the franchise since it relocated from Quebec in 1995.