AVALANCHE (40-24-6) at DUCKS (33-29-8)
Colorado 5-5-0; Anaheim 4-5-1
The Ducks and the Avs have split two meetings this season, the most recent a 4-3 win for Colorado at Honda Center on March 3.
While the Avalanche jockey for position in the West's top eight, the Ducks will look for two points to keep their quickly fading playoff hopes alive.
While Colorado has won four of its last six games, the Avs are still starting to slip in the standings behind Vancouver. The Canucks have been among the best teams in the League of late, and the result for the Avs has been a six-point deficit in the Northwest Division as the season reaches its final three weeks, but the Avalanche could have bigger concerns in the standings. Colorado currently sits in the sixth spot following Nashville's overtime win Saturday, just a point ahead of Los Angeles for seventh, and a fall to bottom of the West's top eight could mean a first-round matchup with San Jose or Chicago next month.
Still, the Avs, despite falling to Calgary in their last game Wednesday, have played well of late. Milan Hejduk
has scored in his last three games and Chris Stewart has 22 points in his last 13. Colorado's deadline pickup has also been paying his share of dividends, as Peter Mueller
has 11 points in his first eight games since arriving from Phoenix. If the Avs' forwards keep producing they may not catch up with Vancouver, but a more equitable postseason foe could be in the offing.
The big news in Anaheim is that the team will be without James Wisniewski for an eight-game stretch after his hit on ex-teammate Brent Seabrook of Chicago. While Wisniewski has been a crucial cog for the Ducks this season, they managed a stirring rally in their first game without him Friday, rallying from two goals down to knock off the Islanders on the strength of two scores by Lubomir Visnovsky
and an overtime-winner by Saku Koivu
. Curtis McElhinney picked up his first win as a Duck in the outing, replacing Jonas Hiller
, who was having a rare off night.
The win was Anaheim's third in a row, but the recent run has come on the heels of a five-game skid, putting the Ducks' chances of making a fifth consecutive playoff berth in serious jeopardy. Still, Anaheim's charges seem undeterred and are playing as if the Ducks are still in the mix. Koivu's winner Friday was his sixth point in three games, while Ryan Getzlaf
has six in his last five.
Colorado's Paul Stastny
has been one of the hottest players in the League of late, notching 16 points over his current nine-game point streak. Meanwhile, Anaheim's sun must be agreeing with the newly-acquired Visnovsky, who has scored five goals in seven games since joining the Ducks.
Anaheim's George Parros
is questionable for Saturday with a head injury, while Ryan Wilson
(mild concussion) and Ruslan Salei (upper-body injury) are both questionable for Colorado. The Avs are expected to be without Stephane Yelle, who is suffering from a leg injury, while winger Cody McLeod
should make his return after missing two games with a leg injury of his own.
Avs goalie Craig Anderson has played very well in his first season in Colorado, winning 35 games over 61 starts, but the Illinois native may be getting worn down. Prior to this year, Anderson's high for starts in a season was 31, and the burden of the added workload might be coming home to roost -- he has given up three goals or more seven times in his last nine games.
It's now or never for Anaheim. If these Ducks don't fly together soon, it will likely mean the end of their 2010 campaign. While the Avs don't face quite the same do-or-die consequences, the two points are no less important for Colorado.