The Ducks have a history of rebounding after embarrassing losses, and tonight’s game against the Colorado Avalanche is a perfect opportunity to get back on track for the final month of the season.
It was after their 6-1 blowout loss against these very Avs on Opening Night when the Ducks reeled off seven consecutive wins that set the tone for the first half of the season. And now they find themselves in a similar situation, two days removed from a 7-2 loss in Calgary. Those seven goals were the most the Ducks have given up in a single game this season, and the most recent loss in a mediocre stretch since the Dodger Stadium game in late January.
“I want them to remember it and not let it happen again,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “How do you do that? You get back to the drawing board and work harder. You don’t feel sorry for yourselves, you don’t say ‘Woe is me’ and you don’t make excuses.
“You go out there and turn it around on your own. You can control what you do. If you compete harder on the puck and you win the one-on-one battles, you usually end up having success.”
Tonight, they’ll face one of the NHL’s hottest teams and one of the biggest surprises this season. After failing to reach the postseason in three consecutive seasons, the Avs are in contention for the Central Division title and Presidents’ Trophy. It’s a remarkable turnaround for a team that drafted No. 2 in 2011 (Gabriel Landeskog) and No. 1 overall last year (Nathan MacKinnon). Under first-year head coach Patrick Roy, the Avs (43-18-5, 91 points) are only two points behind Anaheim (43-16-7, 93 points).
“We’re playing one of the best teams in the league,” said Corey Perry. “We know how they play and how they work. They embarrassed us the first game of the season. We want to be ready to play.”
One player they’ll have to contain is Nathan MacKinnon, who is having a remarkable rookie season in Colorado. There was much speculation leading up to the 2013 draft regarding the Avs and who’d they selected first overall. In the end, they chose MacKinnon over local product Seth Jones (who was selected fourth overall by Nashville). MacKinnon, a native of Halifax, Nova Scotia, has gone on to record 22 goals and 51 points in 66 games.
The 18-year-old is a frontrunner for the Calder Trophy for the NHL’s Rookie of the Year award. MacKinnon leads all NHL rookies in points, goals and assists (29), and recently recorded a 13-game point streak from Jan. 25 to March 6, the longest streak by an 18-year-old in NHL history. MacKinnon broke the previous mark of 12 straight games set by Wayne Gretzky from Dec. 9, 1979 to Jan. 5, 1980.
MacKinnon is just one of many highly skilled forwards among the Avs’ top-nine, which includes Olympic gold medalist Matt Duchene, Ryan O’Reilly, Gabriel Landeskog and Jamie McGinn.
Defenseman Cam Fowler will have the assignment of shutting down one of the league’s fastest teams.
“It’s a big challenge for us,” said Fowler. “Especially the way we’ve been playing the past two games. It’s our responsibility to respond to that. It’s going to be a big test for us, and I think we’ll rise to the occasion. We’ll have to play our best game in order to succeed against these guys.”
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Teemu Selanne-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Patrick Maroon-Nick Bonino-Kyle Palmieri
Daniel Winnik-Saku Koivu-Andrew Cogliano
Matt Beleskey-Mathieu Perreault-Jakob Silfverberg
Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy
Luca Sbisa-Francois Beauchemin
Bryan Allen-Hampus Lindholm
Anaheim and Colorado play the second of a three-game season series tonight at Pepsi Center. The Ducks are 32-30-12 all-time vs. the Avalanche, including a 14-16-7 road mark. Anaheim opened the 2013-14 regular season Oct. 2 at Pepsi Center, dropping a 6-1 decision to Colorado. Teemu Selanne leads Anaheim skaters in career scoring vs. the Avalanche, earning 76 points (36g/40a) in 68 games. The season series will conclude on April 13 at Honda Center, the final day of the regular season.