Avalanche look keep momentum rolling at home vs. Ducks

NHL Hockey
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The Colorado Avalanche are tied for third in the league in scoring, but the goals have been tougher to come by lately.

It hasn’t stopped one of the hottest team in the NHL from piling up victories.

Colorado has won a season-high seven in a row but is averaging just 2.29 goals those games, more than a full goal lower than its season average. Great goaltending and tighter defense have the Avalanche pushing the St. Louis Blues for first place in the Central Division.

Colorado won its ninth straight on the road, 2-1 in Detroit on Monday, and now tries to duplicate that success at home on Wednesday night when it faces the Anaheim Ducks, who will be playing the second of back-to-back games.

Anaheim lost, 6-2, at Chicago on Tuesday night.

The Avalanche have been winning despite long-term injuries to top players. Forwards Nazem Kadri, Mikko Rantanen and Matt Calvert and goaltender Philipp Grubauer have missed extended time, and there’s no immediate timetable for their return.

In addition, forward Andre Burakovsky has missed four of the last five games, and rookie defenseman Cale Makar, second on the team in scoring, sat out Monday’s game with an upper-body injury. He is considered day-to-day.

Colorado’s surge is due in part to its depth as well as its chemistry.

“You get to spend a lot of time on the bus and on the plane, going to dinner and going to movies or having beers together or whatever,” defenseman Erik Johnson told the Denver Post on Saturday. “It’s just a team that has a lot of fun together and really enjoys each other, and I think that just makes it that much better for us on the road. When you enjoy each other’s company and you want to play that hard for the guy next to you.”

The Avalanche became the first Western Conference team to reach 40 wins with Monday’s victory over the Red Wings. They go for No. 41 against an Anaheim team headed for the lottery.

The Ducks had a modest two-game winning streak snapped in a 3-0 home loss to New Jersey on Sunday night before dropping another to the Blackhawks.

Wednesday’s contest will be the third and final meeting between the teams, with each grabbing a road win in the first two. Anaheim took the first game 5-2 on Oct. 26, and Pavel Francouz got his first career shutout in a 1-0 Colorado victory on Feb. 21.

Francouz made only 26 saves in the win, and Ducks coach Dallas Eakins lamented his team’s lack of shots on goal.

“The thing is we need to keep trying to get pucks on net. It doesn’t have to be a clean shot on the net,” he said after the game. “If you watch the highlights every night, there are a whole lot of dirty goals being scored everywhere. That’s how we’re going to have to keep committing to getting pucks into the zone in front of the net.”

Anaheim gave up four second-period goals to the Blackhawks, and its already depleted corps of defensemen took another blow. Already without Cam Fowler, Erik Gudbranson and Hampus Lindholm, the Ducks lost Josh Manson to an upper-body injury.

Eakins did not have a postgame update on Manson, who was averaging 20:52 of ice time this season before his abbreviated 6:18 stint Tuesday.

Francouz will probably be in net for Colorado after serving as Michael Hutchinson’s backup Monday night.

It’s unclear who will be Anaheim’s starting goalie. John Gibson started in Chicago and allowed five goals on 24 shots before giving way to Ryan Miller for the third period. Gibson had 28 saves in the last game against Colorado and has a 3.05 goals-against average for a team with just 26 wins in 66 games.

–Field Level Media

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