DENVER, Colo. – After playing a nearly flawless first two games of their Western Conference semifinal series against Colorado, the Ducks will need to do something tonight they haven’t done this season if they want to take a 3-0 series lead over the Avs.
Win in Denver.
In the first two games of the series, the Ducks outscored Colorado a combined 8-0. Meanwhile, Anaheim netminder Ilya Bryzgalov is currently holding the longest playoff shutout streak ever for a rookie, dating back to Game 6 against Calgary (229:42). Plus, the Ducks have gotten solid contributions from all four lines and they have a 2-0 series lead with Game 3 to be played tonight.
Things couldn’t be better, right?
“I think that our level of play always has room for improvement from a coaching perspective,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. “Because you are always asking your people to make less mistakes, to do a better job in certain areas.”
Up 2-0 in a series is a new situation for the 2006 playoff Ducks. In the conference quarterfinals against Calgary, Anaheim never held a series lead until they clinched the seventh game. And despite holding the advantage this time, they aren’t looking ahead to a clinching game.
“I don’t think we should even be looking to Game 4,” said Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer. “Right now we’ve got a game tonight that is very important for both teams and we have to out there doing our best. So, that’s what we have to think about right now.”
This season the Avalanche posted their third-most wins in franchise history at home in the Pepsi Center, going 25-10-6 on home ice. However, the Pepsi Center’s friendly confines have not always been kind to Colorado in the post-season. Since the 2002 playoffs, the Avs have a sub-.500 record at the Pepsi Center at 9-10.
The Ducks know despite that brief bit of history, getting a victory in this building will be a challenge.
“We have to continue to do what we have to do to be as good as we can,” said Scott Niedermayer. “We have a ton of respect for the team over there. They have a great crowd here that is going to be behind them and it’s going to be tough.”
This season the Ducks were unable to grab a victory in Denver, suffering 4-3 defeats in the two games played at the Pepsi Center.
On November 3rd, Joffrey Lupul tallied a two-goal effort and Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 28 of 32 shots. More recently, on March 28, Andrew Brunette netted the game-winner with 6:03 remaining in the game to lift the Avs to the home sweep of Anaheim.
The Ducks hope their play at home in this series can carry over to the mile-high confines and, more importantly, give them a commanding 3-0 series lead.
“Right now the team is doing the types of things we need to do to win hockey games,” said Scott Niedermayer. The part for us is to try and keep doing it.”
Tonight’s contest will be Colorado’s 483rd consecutive sellout – the longest recorded streak in National Hockey League history.
Ducks fans will have home ‘bar’ advantage at the ESPN Zone located inside Downtown Disney in Anaheim. Fans can also catch Thursday’s game with fellow Quackers at the Zone.
Tonight’s game is being televised exclusively in the US on OLN.
The Ducks’ primary affiliate, the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League, are currently tied 2-2 in the Atlantic Division finals with the Hartford Wolf Pack. Anaheim is the only NHL club to have their AHL affiliate still alive in the playoffs. Zenon Konopka (7-9-16), Shane O’Brien (4-19=13) and Ryan Shannon (7-5=12) lead the team in scoring.