Season Series: This is the third of four season meetings, and the first at the Pepsi Center. The teams split the two meetings in Anaheim, with the Ducks winning the most recent, 3-2 on Jan. 31. That win capped a 9-2-1 February that launched Anaheim into the playoff chase.
Big Story: Two teams on the outside looking in will face off for a valuable two points on Monday night. Nearly eliminated from the postseason before Christmas, Anaheim has roared back through January and February and now sit within six points of eighth-place Dallas. The trouble is, everyone in front of them is playing impressive hockey as well. Count Colorado among that group; the Avs have won three straight and are just two points shy of eighth-place Dallas.
Ducks: For all of their January success, the Ducks might have been even better in February. After stumbling with two straight losses to start, Anaheim won two straight at home before going 5-2-1 on a season-long, eight-game road trip. Of those eight games, however, only one – against Detroit – pitted them against competitive Western Conference opponents. That changed Sunday, when the Ducks returned to the Honda Center for a matchup with the Chicago Blackhawks.
After an early concession to Patrick Kane, it was like they had never left. The Ducks rallied with a goal in each period for a 3-1 win, outshooting the Hawks 38-18. Andrew Cogliano, Sheldon Brookbank and Teemu Selanne all scored.
"I'm enjoying every second of it now," Selanne said. "When you go through some tough times like we did in the first half, you really believe what’s happening here. When it turns around, it has been unbelievable. Fun. That's why we all play. You try to keep pushing and enjoy this."
Avalanche: It's been a nice week for the Colorado Avalanche. Left to stew for three days after a 5-1 loss to Winnipeg last Sunday, the Avalanche stormed back with a 4-1 win over fellow postseason aspirants Los Angeles on Wednesday. Colorado followed with a 5-0 dismantling of Columbus on Friday, and the next day surprised everyone with a 4-3 win over Detroit in Joe Louis Arena. The Avalanche won for the first time this year in the second of a back-to-back – they were previously 0-2-1 – and handed Detroit its first regulation loss at the Joe since Nov. 3, a stretch of 24 games. Rookie Gabriel Landeskog scored twice and Colorado, despite conceding two Detroit goals with less than seven minutes left, held on for the victory.
"We knew this win was going to be tough," said recently-acquired Avs forward Steve Downie, who scored what proved to be the game-winning goal 9:13 into the third. "It's hard to win in this League on back-to-backs, especially in this building, but we came out hard and withstood their pressure. We knew they were going to come out [hard] in the third. They're a great home team, but we got through it."
Who's Hot: While other teams scramble to bolster rosters in anticipation of a postseason run on Monday, Colorado's midseason acquisition will already be on the ice in the form of Steve Downie. Acquired from Tampa Bay last Tuesday, the forward has made an immediate impact, with 2 goals and 3 assists in three games.
Injury Report: Aside from goalie Dan Ellis, who will miss at least a month with a torn groin, Anaheim is healthy. … Milan Hejduk missed the Detroit game and is questionable for Monday's game with a groin injury, while Stefan Elliott (facial laceration) is probable. Ryan O'Byrne will miss 2-3 weeks with a knee injury, while Peter Mueller is out indefinitely.
Stat Pack: Anaheim goalie Jonas Hiller has allowed two goals or fewer in 18 of his last 22 outings. After a rough start to the season, he is 15-3-4 with two shutouts over that stretch. Continuing that strong play will be key for Anaheim, which is on the wrong side of an ultra-competitive mid-conference group.
Puck Drop: After the Detroit win, Colorado coach Joe Sacco expressed his happiness with his newest charge.
"[Downie] adds grit and skill to our lineup, which is exactly what we thought we were getting when we acquired him," Colorado coach Joe Sacco said. "He plays the game with an edge, but as you saw out there tonight he can play the game. That line already in the short time they've been together ... I like what I've seen so far."