With several players out of the lineup with injury, the Colorado Avalanche has won seven straight games with a focus on limiting its opposition's chances. The Avs will look to continue that trend and extend the stretch tonight when they host the Anaheim Ducks at Pepsi Center.
The defensive focus isn't new to the Avalanche, but head coach Jared Bednar says the players' diligence in playing that way has led to the team's success.
"We are not preaching anything different as a coaching staff than we have been for the past two years," said head coach Jared Bednar. "To me, the two words that stick out in my mind is commitment and determination. There is an element too like of what we are doing with the puck, our puck management and making high-percentage plays and no hope plays. We're not turning the puck over in certain areas like we were at times when we were buzzing around on the offensive side of things. To me, it's just straight what the players are doing and how they are committed to it."
Colorado is 7-0-1 in its last eight, one shy of matching its longest point streak of the year (8-0-1, Nov. 27-Dec. 13). The Avs, who won six straight games earlier this year from Nov. 27-Dec. 7, have posted two winning streaks of six or more games in the same season for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign.
"I think we have been defending really well, haven't given up too many scoring chances against, so that is something we want to keep in our game," forward Joonas Donskoi said of the stretch. "Usually when you do that, you are able to win hockey games. We have been giving up one or two goals per game lately so that means that we are defending good, but also our goaltending has been outstanding lately so that is something we want to build on and keep in our game."
Video: Coach Jared Bednar gives an update on the Avalanche
Since the start of the seven-game run on Feb. 19, the Avalanche has allowed a league-low 1.29 goals against per game and has gone 19-for-19 on the penalty kill.
Additionally, the Avs have been playing in tight games as the previous six outings in their winning streak have all been by a one-goal margin. It is the first time that a Colorado/Quebec Nordiques team has ever won that many games by one goal and it equals the NHL record for consecutive wins all by one tally.
"We try to get our guys to be dangerous on the offensive side of things, but that doesn't mean you can't be committed on the defensive side of things… The better we play on the defensive side of it, in general, the more scoring chances we get on the other side of things," said Bednar. "Certainly, we've figured out here recently that we can win games without scoring four or five goals a night, so our guys are doing a good job with that.
"Hopefully as we add bodies back into our lineup that we pick up a little bit more on the offensive side of things but if not then we just have to keep locking it down on the defensive side of things to win hockey games."
The Avalanche will once again be without rookie defenseman Cale Makar against the Ducks as he will miss his second straight game with an upper-body injury. Makar and forward Andre Burakovsky, who is out with an upper-body/lower-body ailment, are day-to-day. They join Matt Calvert (lower body), Philipp Grubauer (lower body), Nazem Kadri (lower body) and Mikko Rantanen (upper body), who are all anticipated to be back sometime in mid-March, on Colorado's injured list.
Video: Nathan MacKinnon before the Avs host the Ducks
"We have five, six key guys out right now and we are finding ways to win," said Nathan MacKinnon. "We are one of the best offensive and defensive teams in the league and that's a pretty good recipe. With how deep we are we feel like every line we have matches up well against the other team line for line. Right now, we got guys called up and they are playing really well too, they have scored some big goals for us, so it's been great to see."
Tonight's matchup with the Ducks will be the third and final meeting between the teams this season. The Avalanche won the most recent matchup 1-0 behind Pavel Francouz's first career shutout on Feb. 21 in Anaheim, the second outing of the current winning streak.
"They have a lot of skill, they have a lot of good forwards and also some D who can play the pucks," Donskoi said of Anaheim. "Their D like to activate in the O-zone sometimes, you have to be aware of that. I think if we are able to continue defending well, I think we are going to get good rush attacks against."
Video: Joonas Donskoi on the Avs' recent success
Colorado is a league-best 15-3-1 in its last 19 games and has collected points in 18 of its last 21 contests (15-3-3).
The Avs rank second in the NHL in goal differential (plus-50) and are tied for third in goals per game (3.42). Colorado is also tied for second in 5-on-5 goals (154).
The Avalanche leads all teams in second-period tallies (90).
Colorado's penalty kill unit has not allowed a goal in nine games, killing a season-high 22 straight shorthanded situations. The nine straight games without a power-play goal against equals the second-longest such streak in Avalanche history (since 1995-96).
Pavel Francouz has won a career-high six consecutive starts, allowing two goals or less in each game for a .957 save percentage and 1.32 goals-against average. He is tied for the NHL lead in save percentage (.929) and ranks fourth in goals-against average (2.24).
Gabriel Landeskog has two goals and three assists on his five-game point streak.