Last 10: Carolina 5-2-3; Colorado 4-5-1
Season Series: This is the only meeting of the season between the Hurricanes and Avalanche. Brandon Sutter won the previous matchup, Dec. 3, 2010 in Carolina, when he scored 1:16 into overtime for a 2-1 victory. Jeff Skinner opened the scoring in the third period before Milan Hejduk tied it for Colorado.
Big Story: Since setting a team record by winning eight in a row at the Pepsi Center, the Avalanche have won just three of eight on their home ice. However, they're coming off a key victory there Tuesday against the Blackhawks and will try to make it two straight before heading out on a four-game road trip.
Hurricanes: The bottom seven in the Eastern Conference has become as congested as the top eight -- although Carolina currently resides dead last in the standings, the Hurricanes could leap several teams in short order if they continue to collect points at their recent clip. They picked up at least a point for the seventh time in eight games Wednesday when they opened a three-game trip with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ducks. Eric Staal gave the Canes a brief 2-1 lead early in the third, but Saku Koivu evened the score moments later and Corey Perry won it in the extra period.
"Our compete level was there, we were on pucks, we were aggressive, we were attacking. Wardo [Cam Ward] was good when he needed to be," Staal said.
Avalanche: A five-game losing streak -- including the first two on the current homestand -- threatened to severely impact Colorado's standing in the Western Conference race, but the Avs came up with the big effort they had been seeking in a 5-2 win over the Blackhawks. Gabriel Landeskog continued a strong rookie season by scoring the tie-breaking goal 38 seconds into the third, and insurance was provided via David Jones' second of the game and Kyle Quincey's empty-netter. Jean-Sebastien Giguere turned aside 29 shots.
"It felt great," said Landeskog, who is tied for fifth among rookies with 12 goals. "We knew if we stuck with it, we would start getting the bounces. That's what we did tonight."
Who's Hot: Ward is 7-3-3 in his last 13 starts for the Hurricanes and has given up two goals or less in 11 of those games. He has a .951 save percentage and two shutouts over that span. … Jones has 3 goals and 1 assist over his last two games for the Avalanche.
Injury Report: Carolina lists just a pair of long-term injuries -- defenseman Joni Pitkanen (concussion/knee) and goaltender Brian Boucher (lower body), both of whom are on injured reserve. … Colorado forward Matt Duchene (knee) is on injured reserve.
Stat Pack:Tuomo Ruutu, a hot commodity as the trade deadline approaches, leads the Hurricanes with 17 goals and is on pace to challenge the career-high 26 he scored three seasons ago. … The Avalanche are tied for the NHL lead with six wins in games they trail after the second period.
Puck Drop: With every game crucial to Colorado's playoff hopes, the veteran Giguere (2.09 goals-against average, .923 save percentage) has gotten the bulk of the workload over struggling Semyon Varlamov (3.00 GAA, .898 save percentage), the expected goalie of the future who was acquired during the offseason from Washington for a hefty price of first- and second-round draft picks.
Giguere speaks from experience when saying that shouldn't reflect poorly on what Varlamov can hope to accomplish down the road.
"He's still really young. I had some bad records and bad numbers all around my first couple of years in the League," Giguere said in the Denver Post. "People could have given up on me. But, you know, if you work hard and keep trying to improve, good things will happen, and I believe the same will happen with Varly."