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Avalanche travel to face red-hot Ducks

by Mike Battaglino

AVALANCHE (6-8-1) at DUCKS (12-2-1)


Last 10: Colorado 4-5-1; Anaheim 9-1-0.

Season series: This is the second of three meetings. The Anaheim Ducks defeated the Colorado Avalanche 3-0 on Feb. 6 in Viktor Fasth's first NHL shutout. The teams play again April 10.

Big story: The Ducks continue to keep pace with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference, each team earning 18 points in their past 10 games. The Ducks trail the Blackhawks by six in the race for first place, but have two games in hand.

After starting last season 4-1-0, Anaheim fell to 5-7-3 on their way to a low point of 10-22-6.

"You never know," general manager Bob Murray told the Orange County Register this week. "Some years, you think you've done some things right and there's no chemistry. It's apparent so far. This group, they like each other. And there's been chemistry from the beginning."

Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog played Saturday for the first time since suffering a concussion Jan. 26. He had an assist in 19:08 of ice time during a 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings.

"It's exciting to be back," he said afterward. "I was really rusty with the puck, but my hands, timing and conditioning will come."

Team scope:

Avalanche: After shutting out the St. Louis Blues 1-0 in overtime Wednesday, goalie Semyon Varlamov and his defense reverted to less-than-effective form Saturday. They gave up four goals after allowing five in back-to-back games prior to the shutout.

"We had some costly turnovers. We didn't play well at all and we have to learn to compete for a full 60 minutes," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said.

Landeskog said, "We definitively weren't good enough. Both on the bench and on the ice we had low energy at times."

Colorado won one of those games and three of four before losing. The Avalanche sit 13th in the Western Conference, two points from ninth.

Former Ducks goalie Jean-Sebastian Giguere likely will start. The Avalanche wrap up a three-game California trip Tuesday at the San Jose Sharks.

Ducks: Anaheim played 10 games in the first 18 days of February, winning nine. After a 3-2 win over the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday ended a three-games-in-four-days stretch, the Ducks haven't played since.

They took two days off before returning to practice Thursday and Saturday.

"It's a long break by any stretch of the imagination whether it's an 82-game season or not," coach Bruce Boudreau told the team's website Saturday. "We would've liked it to have been a little bit less, but I think we're hungry to play again.

"Have we lost any mojo or any of that stuff? I don't know. We'll find out tomorrow. The proof will be there. How we come out. Are we flat? Do we have energy? A lot of things we’ll see tomorrow."

Forward Daniel Winnik said the time off won't hurt the team's momentum as they start a stretch of five games in the next seven days.

"No, I don't think so. It just gets us re-energized," said Winnik, one of nine Ducks with at least four goals. "The last two games we played weren't good at all. We were lucky to get four points … Hopefully we get our legs back and secure the same mojo going forward."

Who's hot: Avalanche forward Milan Hejduk scored Saturday and has four points in the past six games. Forward PA Parenteau has five assists in the past six games. … Fasth is 8-0-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage. Ducks forward Matt Beleskey has two goals and two assists in his past three games. Forward Ryan Getzlaf has at least one point in seven of 10 games this month, five in his past four.

Injury report: Avalanche defensemen Erik Johnson (head) and Ryan Wilson (leg) are out indefinitely. … Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler (upper body) practiced Thursday for the first time since being injured Feb. 2. Forward Saku Koivu (flu) didn't practice Thursday.

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