A four-game winning streak has put the Colorado Avalanche back on track toward the playoffs. To extend that success, though, they'll have to solve an Anaheim Ducks team that has defeated them in all three meetings this season.
On Thursday, the Avalanche seek their season-high fifth straight victory and first against the Ducks in 2007-08 when the teams meet at Pepsi Center.
Colorado (35-26-6) went 1-5-1 from Feb. 12-24 to fall four points out of a potential playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Avalanche have since won four straight, moving into a seventh-place tie with Nashville for the final postseason berth.
Their most recent win was a 2-1 victory over Vancouver on Tuesday. Paul Stastny and John-Michael Liles each scored for the Avs, who haven't won five in a row since Feb. 27-March 7, 2007.
"It's our biggest win of the year," said coach Joel Quenneville, whose team missed the playoffs for the first time in 12 seasons in 2006-07. "We've got a little momentum going."
Jose Theodore has been key to that success, making 26 saves on Tuesday to improve to 5-1-0 with a 1.94 goals-against average in his last six starts. He has won four straight games, his longest streak since going 5-0-0 from March 5-20, 2004 with Montreal.
Theodore is 4-4-0 with a 3.04 GAA in nine career appearances against the Ducks.
Peter Forsberg made his season debut Tuesday after sitting out the first five months of the season with a right foot injury. The Avalanche hope Forsberg, the 2003 MVP, can help offset injuries to wingers Marek Svatos and Ryan Smyth, who both were hurt in Saturday's win over Los Angeles.
Svatos - the Avs' leader with 26 goals - is expected to miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL, while Smyth is out indefinitely after suffering a concussion and a minor shoulder separation.
With two of their strongest players sidelined, the Avalanche look to end their struggles against the Ducks (38-24-7), who have won four straight in the series since a 2-0 loss on Feb. 13, 2007.
|After sitting out the first five months of the season due to a foot injury, center Peter Forsberg, left, returned to game action for the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday, March 4, 2008, against the Vancouver Canucks. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
All three losses this season have been decided by one goal, including a 3-2 shootout loss in Anaheim on Feb. 20 in the most recent matchup.
"We've had three disappointing losses against them," Quenneville told the Avalanche's official Web site. "At the same time I think the games have been very even and very competitive. We probably expect much the same tomorrow."
The defending Stanley Cup champions have never swept a season series against Colorado.
Anaheim, which is third in the Pacific Division and fifth in the West, has won 11 of 13 games since an 0-5-1 stretch from Jan. 20-Feb. 2. However, the Ducks lost 3-0 at Chicago on Wednesday, falling a win short of matching a franchise-record, seven-game streak set from Feb. 20-March 7, 1999.
Anaheim, which was limited to 19 shots, outscored opponents 20-10 over its previous six contests.
"We didn't play very well, it's as simple as that," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "They had more energy that we did and their execution was to a higher level. Our offensive players for whatever reason tonight didn't have much going."
The Ducks did have All-Star defenseman Chris Pronger back in the lineup after he missed the previous two games with a broken jaw.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere, who made 25 saves Tuesday, is 9-2-0 with a 1.45 GAA and a shutout in his last 11 contests. He is 7-10-1 with two ties and a 2.22 GAA in 22 games against the Avalanche.