The Colorado Avalanche returns from the All-Star break on Tuesday night, traveling to Anaheim for the last of three matchups against the Ducks this season, all of which have been played in the month of January.
Colorado is 0-2-0 this season against Anaheim, dropping the first game of the series 4-1 at Pepsi Center on Jan. 12 and falling 2-1 at Honda Center a week later on Jan. 19. The Avs are 37-29-16 overall in the all-time series and 17-13-11 as the road team.
Last Time Out
The Avalanche dug out of a 2-0 hole but fell 3-2 to the Vancouver Canucks on Wednesday night at Pepsi Center. Mikko Rantanen and Matt Nieto each found the back of the net for Colorado, and Calvin Pickard finished with 38 saves.
Anaheim is coming off a 4-0 loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday night. The Ducks outshot the Oilers 26-23, including a 9-5 margin in the third period, but couldn't solve goaltender Cam Talbot. It was the first time the Ducks were shutout since Nov. 12.
Video: Preview of the Avalanche's game against the Ducks
Last Time They Met
Gabriel Landeskog scored a power-play goal to get the Avalanche on the board first, but Anaheim scored twice in the third period to take a 2-1 win on Jan. 19 at Honda Center. Calvin Pickard made 34 saves, including 22 in the opening period, as the Avs were outshot 36-22 on the night. Nick Ritchie potted the game-winning goal with just over two minutes left in regulation.
What to Watch
Pacific Division Race
The race for the Pacific Division title is going to be a tight one, as just one point separates the San Jose Sharks, Edmonton Oilers and Ducks. The last time the Avs and Ducks met, Anaheim was tied with San Jose atop the division. The club from Orange County is now just one point behind the Oilers and Sharks--who are tied for the lead--in what is the closest race amongst the top three teams in any NHL division.
Second Half Approach
The Avalanche enters the post-All-Star break portion of the schedule in last place in the Central Division but has been competitive in almost every game since entering their bye week with a 2-1 overtime win over the New York Islanders. Head coach Jared Bednar has seen progress and the effort he wants from his team, and the results are hopefully not too far behind.
"Just trying to stay positive as a group and making sure we're upbeat and keep teaching our guys and keep instilling the culture that we want for our young players coming in here I think is real important for us in the second half," Bednar said following Monday afternoon's practice at Family Sports Center.
The Ducks and Avs have been two of the top faceoff teams in the NHL for much of this season and enter tonight's matchup ranked first and second, respectively. The Ducks, who have been winning faceoffs at a 55.2 percent clip, are led by Antoine Vermette, who ranks first overall with a 63.5 faceoff win percentage. Vermette is the only player in the league who has taken more than 200 draws that has won more than 60 percent them.
The Avalanche, which has a 53.3 faceoff win percentage, has been paced by Matt Duchene, who ranks second among all NHL skaters with a 59.8 win percentage.
Player to Watch
Colorado: Left Wing Matt Nieto
Nieto tied a career high with seven shots in Colorado's last game before the All-Star break and contributed a goal. He's now registered two goals and an assist in eight games since being claimed off waivers from San Jose on Jan. 5.
Anaheim: Center Rickard Rakell
Rakell leads the Ducks with three points (one goal, two assists) in the first two games of the season series against Colorado. With 20 markers in 40 games played for Anaheim this season, he's tied for second in the league behind Sidney Crosby in goals per game.
Calvin Pickard will get the nod in goal, his second career start against the Ducks.
Rene Bourque and Tyson Barrie are also expected to return to the lineup after missing three and four games, respectively, with lower-body injuries.
The puck drops at 8 p.m. MT on Tuesday night, and the game can be watched live on Altitude TV. Fans can tune into Altitude Sports Radio AM 950 to listen to the action or hear it online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.