In what has become a depressing season for the Colorado Avalanche
, veteran Milan Hejduk
has been one of the few bright spots and is closing in on a record held by icon Joe Sakic
The 35-year-old right wing needs 1 goal to match Sakic's franchise record of 11 consecutive seasons with 20 or more goals, a mark he could reach Friday when the Avalanche meet the Anaheim Ducks
at the Pepsi Center.
"It would be nice," Hejduk said following Friday's pre-game skate. "It definitely would be a nice accomplishment."
Hejduk broke into the NHL with the Avalanche in 1998-99, led all rookie scorers with 48 points in 82 games and finished third in voting for the Calder Trophy behind then-teammate Chris Drury
and Ottawa's Marian Hossa
. After scoring 14 goals that season, he netted between 21 and 50 every season heading into 2010-11.
Hejduk had 41 goals in 2000-01 and 7 goals in the playoffs when the Avalanche won the Stanley Cup, and he became the fourth player in franchise history to score 50 in 2002-03, when he won the Maurice "Rocket" Richard Trophy.
"It's still fun. Obviously it hasn't been as much (fun) as it used to be in the last couple months. But I try to still enjoy it. I still like the game and being around the guys. It'd be nice if we put some wins together. It would be more enjoyable."
-- Milan Hejduk
Injuries have slowed Hejduk down the past couple of seasons. He missed 26 games last season but still managed to score 23 goals. He has 19 goals and 29 assists in 59 games this season, having missed seven games in December because of a groin ailment.
"He goes about his business in a quiet fashion," Avalanche coach Joe Sacco said. "He flies under everybody's radar. For a guy who has had the amount of success that he's had, he's a very humble guy."
Hejduk said he still enjoys playing the game, even though the Avalanche has gone 1-14-2 since Jan. 26 and will miss the playoffs for the second time in three seasons.
"Honestly, I don't know what happened," Hejduk said.
It hasn't helped that 23 Avalanche players have missed at least one game because of an injury or illness. Overall, the team has lost a Western Conference-high 342 man-games to various ailments.
Hejduk, however, said he and his teammates have an obligation to play hard the rest of the way, regardless of the team's 14th-place standing in the West and 28th-place spot in the League standings.
"You're still playing the game," he said. "You're a professional hockey player and every game you want to win no matter what, even if you are mentally down. The bottom line is there are people watching us and we want to perform as well as we can. It was definitely more fun for us and for everybody who was watching the games two months ago."
Hejduk signed a one-year, $3 million contract extension before last season and will be eligible for unrestricted free agency July 1, but it's likely he'll re-sign with the Avalanche if he doesn't retire.
"We'll see," he said of his future plans. "I don't really want to think about it now."
Hejduk, who will play in his 899th NHL game Friday, is third on the franchise's all-time list for games, fourth in goals (354), fifth in assists (395) and fifth in points (749). He has 34 goals and 42 assists in 112 playoff games.
"It's still fun," he said. "Obviously it hasn't been as much (fun) as it used to be in the last couple months. But I try to still enjoy it. I still like the game and being around the guys. It'd be nice if we put some wins together. It would be more enjoyable."
Liles out --
Avalanche defenseman John-Michael Liles
will miss his first game of the season Friday because of a bruised thigh. He hasn't practiced since getting injured Tuesday in Minnesota on a check by Brad Staubitz
. He is Colorado's fourth-leading scorer this season with 42 points (6 goals, 36 assists).
Ducks rolling --
The Ducks are 4-1-0 in their past five games, including a 3-2 win against the Avalanche on Feb. 27. Anaheim has won nine of the past 10 meetings between the teams.
The Ducks enter the game 10th in the jam-packed West, two points behind eighth-place Los Angeles with 15 games to play. The Ducks still have three more games left against the Kings, including a home-and-home series to close the regular season.
"You've got to continue to push through," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle
said of the tightly-contested playoff race. "We've got some personnel that we think can play to an elite level. At times, when we get it all going, then we look impressive. But there are times within the game (where) we seem to lose it, too. What we're trying to do is try to be as consistent as we can."