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Surging Avalanche host slumping Ducks

by Jon Lane

DUCKS (43-16-7) at AVALANCHE (43-18-5)


Last 10: Anaheim 3-5-2; Colorado 7-3-0

Season series: This is the second of three games between the Anaheim Ducks and Colorado Avalanche. The teams haven't seen each other since Oct. 2, when Semyon Varlamov's 35 saves and Jamie McGinn's two goals led Colorado to a 6-1 season-opening victory in Patrick Roy's debut as Avalanche coach.

Big story: The suddenly-slumping Ducks (0-2-2 in their past four games) continue a three-game road trip. Anaheim not only trails the St. Louis Blues in the race for Presidents' Trophy, the San Jose Sharks are nipping at its heels in the Pacific Division. Conversely, the Avalanche are 5-1-0 in March and winners of six of their past seven games. Their 3-2 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday moved them into third place in the Western Conference and second in the Central Division.

"As much as our objective remains the same, in a way it is important for us to remain even-keel after every game, but also take it one day at a time and see where we are at the end," Roy said after practice Thursday. "This is an approach we don't want to lose."

Team Scope:

Ducks: Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau is determined to avoid a repeat of last season, when the Ducks finished 8-9-2 before losing in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to the Detroit Red Wings. Since defeating the Vancouver Canucks 9-1 on Jan. 15, the Ducks are 7-8-2 and coming off an embarrassing 7-2 road loss to the Calgary Flames on Wednesday.

"I don't really know what to say. It's trying to understand how that can happen in a race like we are in, in a game that is so important against a team that is beneath us in the standings," Boudreau said. ''Now going on the road to Colorado and L.A. ... We better do some soul searching."

Forward Andrew Cogliano said his team will have to up its game significantly to win in Denver.

"We have to be better, simply because [Colorado] already beat us 6-1 [in the season opener]," said Cogliano, who had one of Anaheim's two goals in Calgary. "They're playing very good hockey."

Avalanche: Colorado's special teams came through against the Blackhawks. Ryan O'Reilly's goal on a 5-on-3 power play in the third period proved to be the winner and snapped a 0-for-13 drought with the main advantage. Colorado also went 3-for-3 on the penalty kill after giving up at least one power-play goal in seven of its previous nine games.

Now that the Avalanche have passed the Blackhawks, they're looking toward catching the division-leading St. Louis Blues, who own the NHL's best record.

"We're happy right now, but we're not satisfied," center Matt Duchene said. "We're going to keep pushing. We want to try and climb as high as we possibly can. This is a nice accolade to have right now, and we just have to keep it going."

Who's hot: Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf has four assists in his past five games. Forward Corey Perry is 5-1-6 in his past five … Duchene extended his career-best scoring streak to nine games (five goals, nine assists) Wednesday, the longest active streak in the NHL. Varlamov made 37 saves in defeating the Blackhawks for his 100th career victory. He's won five of his past six starts, allowing more than two goals only once, and is scheduled to start Colorado's next two games, against the Ducks and at the Ottawa Senators.

Injury report: Ducks defensemen Stephane Robidas (broken leg) and Sheldon Souray (right wrist surgery) remain on injured reserve. However, Robidas, acquired from the Dallas Stars at the NHL Trade Deadline, could make his Ducks debut next week. … Avalanche center Paul Stastny (back) is day-to-day and Roy said he'd be "very surprised" if he played Friday. Forward Alex Tanguay (hip surgery) is out for the season.

Follow Jon Lane on Twitter: @JonLaneNHL

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