The Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks (25-13-9, 59 pts.) conclude a three-game homestand tonight vs. the Colorado Avalanche (13-28-1, 27 pts.) at Honda Center (7 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). The Ducks, who have earned points in 12 of the last 13 games overall (8-1-4, 20 pts.), have also gone 9-1-2 in the last 12 games at Honda Center, collecting standings points in 11 of those contests (20 pts.). The club's eight wins and 19 points since Christmas rank second in the NHL behind only Washington (9-1-2, 20 pts.).
In addition, Anaheim has allowed the fewest goals in the league since Christmas with 18 (Vancouver is second with 20 GA, having played one less game). On the penalty kill, the Ducks are 40-for-44 for a 90.9% that leads the league since December 25. "You can have success without a power play, but you don't have a chance for success without penalty killing," said head coach Randy Carlyle. "If you're giving up goals on the penalty kill, you're going to have to create offense in different situations. Games are going to be tougher to score goals [moving forward]."
Tonight marks the second of three games between the Ducks and Avs this season. The Ducks have posted a 38-33-12 all-time record vs. the Avalanche, including a 4-1 win in the most recent meeting seven days ago in Denver. Anaheim also owns a 20-16-5 mark at Honda Center. This season set will conclude during the month of January, marking Anaheim's only series against a Western Conference opponent to be played in a single month this season. The Ducks and Avalanche will meet again to wrap up the series on Tuesday, January 31 in Anaheim. Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf enters tonight's game leading Anaheim skaters in career scoring against Colorado with 34 points (11g/23a) in 37 games.
"They work hard. They really do," said forward Logan Shaw. "They have a lot of skill and they're fast. They play a hard game. The standings don't mean a whole lot. Any team can beat any team on any given night. We have to make sure we're ready to go. It's a big test for our team."
The Ducks are coming off a 2-1 overtime victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning two nights ago at Honda Center. Despite giving up the game's opening goal in the second period, the Ducks responded just 21 seconds later when Getzlaf capitalized on a Lightning turnover by sending a shot past a seemingly distracted Ben Bishop for his sixth goal of the season. Then, with a man advantage in sudden death, Rickard Rakell corralled a loose puck off the draw and picked the top corner for his team-leading 19th goal of the season to seal the victory for Anaheim. Making his 34th start of 2016-17, John Gibson stopped 27-of-28 shots en route to his 18th win of the season (18-10-8).
Following tonight's game, the Ducks embark on their final road trip in January, a two-game trek that features stops in Minnesota on Saturday (6 p.m. PT) and Winnipeg on Monday (5 p.m. PT).
"This stretch of games is where you want to collect points," said Getzlaf. "We're going into the All-Star break and we have another break in a month. We have no excuse on timing. We have to keep pushing forward."
Colorado makes its way out west for a brief two-game road trip that begins tonight at Honda Center and concludes on Saturday evening at SAP Center in San Jose. The Avalanche is coming off a 6-4 defeat to the Chicago Blackhawks at Pepsi Center on Tuesday night that featured a two-goal effort from Matt Duchene and two-assist performances from Tyson Barrie and Nathan MacKinnon. Semyon Varlamov stopped 21 shots in the loss, but it was revealed that he'll but shut down through the upcoming All-Star break (January 26-30) for a lingering groin injury. The Avs enter tonight's game with a league-worst 13-28-1 record (27 points), with just two wins in its last 10 games (2-8-0).
"They have guys who want to prove [themselves]," said defenseman Hampus Lindholm. "They're going to show they're not really [a reflection] of what the standings show. They're going to come out hard and play a good game."
Video: Ducks players preview the game against the Avalanche