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Bittersweet Night for Mitchell against the Ducks

by Ron Knabenbauer / Colorado Avalanche

It was a bittersweet night for John Mitchell.

The Avalanche forward signed a contract extension and had a goal and an assist on Friday night, but the Colorado ended up losing 6-4 to the Anaheim Ducks at Pepsi Center.

John Mitchell

Mitchell's goal gave Colorado a 1-0 lead in the first period, but he said he would trade his eighth tally of the season for an Avalanche victory in what was a physical, high-scoring game.

"It's nice to score a goal, get that first one and get the team going, but I would much rather take the win over scoring that goal," Mitchell said. "We just have to get right back on that horse in Ottawa."

Less than two hours after signing a three-year contract extension that will keep him in an Avalanche uniform until the 2016-17 season, Mitchell scored on a wrist shot from the mid-slot that sailed over Jonas Hiller's shoulder and into the top-right corner of the net.

Colorado took the one-goal lead into what was a wild second period that had nine total goals scored. Anaheim took a 5-2 lead with two minutes left to play in the middle stanza, but the Avs battled back and got to within one goal with 1:19 remaining after Gabriel Landeskog scored his 20th goal of the season.

Mitchell had the primary assist on Landeskog's tally and now has 17 helpers this year, tying a career-high he previously set in 2008-09 and 2009-10 with Toronto. He has 25 points this season, which is four points shy of his career high and there is still 15 games left on the this year's schedule

The Oakville, Ontario native has played most of this season on Colorado's third line, but he has recently been playing on one of the Avs' top scoring lines with Landeskog and Nathan MacKinnon after PA Parenteau and Paul Stastny went down with injuries in the last week. Friday's game marked his second multi-point outing in his last three contests and his seventh of the season.

Mitchell is in his second season with the Avalanche after playing four years with the Toronto Maple Leafs and the New York Rangers. He recorded 20 points in 47 games, and he finished second on the team in plus/minus (+5), was third in hits (99) and fourth in goals (10) in the shortened 2012-13 campaign.

He is a grinding, two-way player that can play in all situations and sees his fair share of time on the power play and the penalty kill, including Friday against the Ducks. His all-around play and toughness was something the Avs wanted to keep in their lineup for the future.

“John is a proven NHL player who has been a very good addition to our team the past two seasons,” Avalanche executive vice president of hockey operations Joe Sakic said in a release. “He can play in different situations and we feel his presence and his versatility will continue to strongly benefit our team moving forward.”

In the last season of a two-year contract that he signed on July 1, 2012, Mitchell said he wanted to stay with the Avs and is thrilled to continue playing in Colorado.

"It's obviously something that I wanted," Mitchell said. "We've been talking for a little bit, and we were able to work something out. I'm really happy to be able to be here in Denver for the next three years. My family and I are very excited."


Reto Berra

In addition to the Mitchell signing, the Avalanche also announced before the game that the team had signed goaltender Reto Berra to a three-year contract through the 2016-17 season.

Berra was acquired from Calgary on March 5 in exchange for a second-round selection in the 2014 NHL Draft. He appeared in 29 games for the Flames this year, posting a 9-17-2 record with a 2.95 goals-against average. The Bulach, Switzerland native represented his country at the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russia, posting a 0-1 record with a 1.02 goals-against average in one start for the Swiss.

“As I mentioned when we acquired Reto, we strongly believe in his abilities,” Sakic said in a release. “He has size and skill and will help solidify our goaltending position for years to come.”

Selected by St. Louis in the fourth round (106th overall) in the 2006 Entry Draft, Berra was acquired by Calgary on April 1, 2013. The 6-foot-4, 194-pound netminder had spent his entire career in Switzerland prior to this year.


Matt Duchene's nine-game point streak came to end Friday as he was held off the scoresheet for the first time since winning a gold medal with Team Canada at the Olympics. His last game without a point was Feb. 6 at Philadelphia.

Duchene did have his chances against the Ducks as he played 21:20 and fired five shots on goal. Several times throughout the game he was in the right position to possibly score, but the puck would just jump over his stick or Hiller would make an acrobatic save.

His nine-game streak was the longest of his career and was the longest active streak in the NHL before Friday. He had five goals and nine assists during the stretch.


Paul Stastny missed his third consecutive game with a back injury that he suffered in last Saturday's contest against the St. Louis Blues. Roy said he is still listed as day-to-day.

The Avs had played well in the first two games that Stastny missed as they picked up division wins against the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks.

Roy said the team wants to be patient with Stastny and not rush him back until he is fully healthy.

"We're just not going to push on him. When he's ready, he'll be ready," Roy said Friday morning. "Right now we are a team that is playing well, and there is no urgency to put him in the lineup if he's not 100 percent. We'll see what happens in the next few days."

The Avs used the same lineup as they did in their 3-2 win over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night. Reto Berra, PA Parenteau (knee injury, out 4-6 weeks), Cory Sarich and Ryan Wilson joined Stastny as scratches.


The first time the Avalanche and the Ducks met on Oct. 2, tempers overflowed at the final buzzer as there was a scuffle in front of both teams' benches after what Avs coach Patrick Roy thought should have been a kneeing penalty after rookie Nathan MacKinnon was hit minutes earlier.

Roy and Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau also got into the action as they traded some heated words before Roy pushed the glass partition that separates the benches toward Boudreau. Roy was later fined $10,000 by the league for his actions, but in the long run it helped him show that he had his players' backs.

"All along, I've been talking about a partnership with my players and letting them know that I am with them," Roy said Friday morning of the incident. "When that thing happened at the end, it certainly gave me an opportunity to show them that I am with them. It is nice to talk, but sometimes talk is cheap.

The Avs players definitely noticed Roy's loyalty and seemed to respond as they went on to a 12-1 record to the start the season, becoming the fifth team in NHL history to accomplish such a feat.

"Obviously, Patty showed that he was here to coach for us and would have our backs from the very start," Matt Duchene said before Friday's game. "I wouldn't expect to see the same thing tonight, but I think it definitely set the tone for the season."


Anaheim Ducks forward Teemu Selanne could have played in his final game at Pepsi Center on Friday night as he is the final stretch run of his 21-year career. Selanne has said that the 2013-14 season will be his last.

With the NHL's new divisional playoff format, the only way Selanne would play in Colorado again would be if the Avalanche meet the Ducks in the Western Conference Finals. He had an assist in the game.

The 43-year-old has 1,451 points in 1,440 career games. Selanne played 78 of those contests as a member of the Avs during the 2003-04 season and tallied 32 points (16 goals, 16 assists).

While head coach Patrick Roy retired the season before Selanne came to Colorado, the hall-of-fame goalie has the utmost respect for one of the greatest players in NHL history.

"It's amazing, isn't it? Not only is he still playing, but he's playing at a high level, which is something very special. He's a special player," Roy said after Friday's morning skate. "When he came to Denver it was the year that I retired and it would have been nice playing with him, but at the same time it is nice to see what he has accomplished. It seems like the Ducks were a great fit for him, and I'm sure we'll see his jersey one day [retired by Anaheim]."

Selanne has participated in six Winter Olympics and captained Finland to the bronze medal in February at the Sochi Games. He was also named most valuable player of the tournament.

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