By Kyle Shohara
All good things must come to an end, and for the Ducks, that meant their franchise-best 11-game winning streak. A 2-1 shootout loss to the league-leading Washington Capitals on Monday night put an end to the impressive run, but the Ducks still earned a point to stay on top of the Pacific Division standings.
So they enter tonight’s game in the Mile High City looking to begin another win streak against the Colorado Avalanche – a desperate team fighting to claim the second and final wild card spot in the Western Conference. This marks the first of a two-game road trip for Anaheim, which then travels to St. Louis to take on the rugged Blues on Friday.
The Ducks enter tonight riding a six-game road win streak, currently the longest active streak in the NHL. Anaheim has also won 11 of its past 12 (11-0-1) and has earned points in 14 straight (12-0-2, 26 pts.), the latter marking the NHL's longest active streak this season. Anaheim's standings point streak is the NHL’s longest since Boston’s 16-game point streak (15-0-1, 31 pts.) from March 2-30, 2014.
“When you have goaltending like we do, it makes things a lot easier for everyone else,” said Ducks forward Ryan Garbutt, on the team’s success on the road. “Our backend is really solid. We have guys we can plug in who aren’t even playing right now that can be playing on most teams. We have four lines that can roll. When you spread out your two best players like that, it’s pretty tough to match lines against us. That’s why we’ve done so well on the road.”
Tonight marks the second of three meetings this season against the Avs, who skated to a 3-0 victory on Oct. 16 at Honda Center. Those were dark times for the Ducks, who woke up the next morning with an 0-3-1 record and a single goal to their credit. These two clubs will conclude the season series in what was supposed to be Anaheim’s final game of the season on April 9 at Colorado, but with the postponement of the game against Washington on Jan. 22, the game at Pepsi Center will be the first of a back-to-back set.
Longtime Ducks defenseman and 2007 Stanley Cup champion Francois Beauchemin will patrol the blueline tonight for the Avs, this being his first season with the team after signing a three-year contract on July 1. “Beauch” spent parts of nine seasons with Anaheim, where he is still the second-highest scoring defenseman in franchise history with 53-126—179 points in 525 games. Jamie McGinn, whom the Ducks acquired from the Buffalo Sabres on trade deadline day, spent parts of four seasons with the Avs from 2011-12 to 2014-15.
“They’ve got four real good lines,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “They’ve got a dynamic defenseman in Tyson Barrie, and they’ve got Beauch, who we really know, and Erik Johnson. Those are three solid defensemen. They’ve got a really good, speedy team. We’re going to have to make sure we’re on top of our game to be successful.”
Netminders for tonight’s game are expected to be John Gibson for Anaheim and Semyon Varlamov for Colorado. In addition to leading the NHL in goals-against average (2.04), Gibson (16-8-3) currently leads rookies in save percentage (.920, min. 22 games) and shutouts (4), and co-leads in wins. Gibson also owns a personal five-game point streak (4-0-1). For the 27-year-old Varlamov, tonight marks his 46th appearance of the season, all starts. Varlamov is 23-17-3 in those games, with a 2.75 GAA and .914 SV%. His all-time career mark against Anaheim is 3-3-2 with a 2.90 GAA and .909 SV% in nine appearances.
While the Ducks are poised to make the postseason, the Avs are currently on the outside looking in, but only by a smidge. The Avs are tied in points with the Minnesota Wild for the second wild card spot, but have played one more game than their division rivals. These are crucial games for a relatively young squad that missed the playoffs last season.
“We’re in a position where every game means so much to us down the stretch,” said Johnson. “For us, each game has a huge amount of importance. In a way, that’s a lot of fun, but there’s a lot of pressure, too. As a group, we’ve been embracing that. It’s good to have that every-play-matters kind of mentality. It could be between a point for us and Minnesota to get in. As a group, we treat every game as do or die.”
Acquired by Colorado at the trade deadline from the Arizona Coyotes, veteran Mikkel Boedker knows the Ducks well. The 26-year-old says he and the Avs will have to ready for four lines of attack from Anaheim. “They have something to [prove] since the poor start they had,” Boedker said. “They really come after it. They have good goaltending, good defense and good forwards. We have to be prepared. We need two points, as well. It’s going to be a big game for us.”EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Nick Ritchie – Ryan Getzlaf – David Perron
Jamie McGinn – Rickard Rakell – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Ryan Garbutt – Nate Thompson – Mike Santorelli
Cam Fowler – Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm – Josh Manson
Simon Despres – Sami Vatanen
Mikhail Grigorenko — Matt Duchene — Jarome Iginla
Mikkel Boedker — Nathan MacKinnon — Blake Comeau
Gabriel Landeskog — Carl Soderberg —Shawn Matthias
Cody McLeod — John Mitchell — Jack Skille
Francois Beauchemin — Erik Johnson
Nick Holden — Tyson Barrie
Eric Gelinas — Zach Redmond