The Colorado Avalanche begins a short two-game road trip in Anaheim on Thursday. The second meeting between the two teams this season, the contest comes just a week after playing their first matchup on Jan. 12.
Colorado is 17-12-11 in 40 games at Anaheim and has not lost a road contest in regulation in the series since Jan. 22, 2012.
Last Time Out
The Avalanche led the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 after two periods but ultimately fell 6-4 to its Central Division rival on Tuesday night at Pepsi Center. Colorado scored three times in a 5:05 span of the middle frame, the fastest three goals scored by the Avs this season, but Chicago outshot the Avs 12-5 in the final period and scored three markers to take the win.
Anaheim continued a three-game homestand with a 2-1 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday. Each team's regulation goal came in a 21 second span of the second period, and Rickard Rakell potted the overtime winner. The Ducks have won six of their last eight and have only lost in regulation once in their last 12 outings.
Last Time They Met
Anaheim skated away with a 4-1 win over the Avalanche on Jan. 12 at Pepsi Center. Nathan MacKinnon scored Colorado's only tally, and Rakell led all skaters with a goal and an assist. The Avs won 56 percent of their faceoffs against the Ducks, who entered the game as the top faceoff team in the league.
What to Watch
The Faceoff Battle
Thursday's tilt features the league's top two faceoff teams in Anaheim, ranked No. 1 at 55.2 percent, and Colorado, the NHL's second-ranked faceoff team with a 53.6 percent success rate. The Avs sit first in offensive zone win percentage at 57.0 percent.
The game also features the league's top two faceoff players in Matt Duchene and Anaheim's Antoine Vermette. Duchene won the first matchup, finishing 14-for-16, including a perfect 3-for-3 head-to-head against Vermette.
The Ducks have outscored their opponents 22-11 in January, and their plus-11 goal differential ranks second in the league for the month.
Ryan Getzlaf's 28 assists are tied for eighth in the NHL. Cam Fowler is among the league's best offensive defensemen, and his nine goals are tied for third amongst all blueliners.
Player to Watch
Colorado: Defenseman Francois Beauchemin
The Avalanche veteran has taken on a larger role in the absence of Erik Johnson. His 20:53 of average ice time per game since Dec. 4 ranks second on the team only to Tyson Barrie in that span. The Avs are 3-15-1 when Beauchemin sees less than 20 minutes of game action.
Anaheim: Ryan Getzlaf
The Ducks' captain carries a six-game point streak (two goals, four assists) into Thursday's contest. He missed four games at the beginning of January with an injury but has recorded a point in each of the last six games he's played in. Getzlaf ranks second all-time with 34 career points (11 goals, 23 assists) against the Avalanche. Teemu Selanne (60 points) is first.
Calvin Pickard will get the nod in net on Thursday as starting goaltender Semyon Varlamov is out with a groin injury, one that has sidelined him for nine games over the course of the season already.
"Varly's going to stay back off the road trip. He's going to see the doctors again and talk to the doctors and our trainer," said head coach Jared Bednar after Wednesday's practice session at Family Sports Center. "We are going to shut him down until after the All-Star Break. We're going to look at other treatment options and see what we need to do to get him healthy."
Thursday's game will be Pickard's first career start against Anaheim. He's 7-11-1 so far this season.
The pucks drops at 8 p.m. MT between the Avs and Ducks and the game can be watched live on Altitude 2. Fans can listen in on 92.5 FM The Wolf and online at ColoradoAvalanche.com.