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Struggling Avs need win over Ducks

by Dave Lozo

DUCKS (36-31-8) at AVALANCHE (41-27-7)

Last 10 -- Anaheim 6-4-0; Colorado 4-5-1

Season series -- This is the fourth and final meeting between the teams. The Ducks have won two of three, including a 4-2 victory on Dec. 22 at the Pepsi Center in their last visit to Denver and a 5-2 victory in Anaheim 10 days ago.

Big story --
The Ducks are playing out the string -- they’re nine points behind the eighth-place Avs with seven games to play. Colorado is trying to hold on to a playoff spot. The slumping Avs, coming off weekend losses at Phoenix and San Jose, are just four points ahead of Calgary in the battle for eighth in the West.

Team scope:

Ducks -- While the playoffs are nearly an impossibility, it hasn't deterred Anaheim from playing its best hockey of late. The Ducks have won six of eight, including the last two with backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney between the pipes.

Jonas Hiller was set to start Anaheim's game against Dallas on Monday, but back spasms during pregame warmups kept him on the bench -- and McElhinney, coming off a 3-2 win at Edmonton on Friday, backstopped the Ducks to a 3-1 home win.

Though they're all but assured of missing the playoffs, the Ducks are still giving it their all.

"It's tough to say but our chances have slimmed down and we know that," Ducks center Corey Perry said. "But there are a lot of guys that are working for jobs and we're coming in every night and working hard and continuing to push. That's our attitude. Never say no."

Avalanche -- Very few thought the Avs could reach the playoffs after finishing 28th in the 30-team NHL last season, but they've proved the critics wrong by holding onto the lead in the Northwest Division for most of the season.

However, the Avs have lost five of six and are suddenly looking at a fight for eighth with the Flames, who visit the Pepsi Center on Friday. But there's no point in looking past the Ducks, since Colorado still has its fate in its hands. 

"The ball's in our court still. We can control our destiny. We don't have to worry about what other teams do still," coach Joe Sacco told the Denver Post.

Who's hot -- Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, the newest member of the 600-goal club, has eight points in his last seven games. … Peter Mueller, acquired by the Avs at the trade deadline from Phoenix, has been a force with his new team. The 21-year-old has 7 goals and 10 assists in 12 games since the trade.

Injury report --
Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf (ankle) and Hiller (back) are day-to-day. … Avs defenseman Ryan Wilson is dealing with a concussion. Stephane Yelle (leg) is unlikely to play. Winger Brandon Yip (shoulder) could be available.

Stat pack -- Craig Anderson set a Colorado record for goalies by playing in his 66th game Sunday in San Jose. The previous mark was set by Patrick Roy during the 1997-98 season. …Anaheim (12-20-5) has the fifth-worst road record in the NHL.

Puck drop --
"We've got to stay positive. We've got to keep working at it. I think our effort's been there. We've been playing hard, but we've made some mistakes that we've got to work harder to eliminate." -- Avs captain Adam Foote

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