Avalanche out for rebound win vs. Ducks

NHL

The Anaheim Ducks haven’t had much to celebrate this season. They’re mired in last place in the West Division and have gone 6-15-4 since Feb. 11.

But one thing Anaheim has accomplished is playing tough against the Colorado Avalanche. In the first six games between the teams, the Ducks are 2-2-2 and they have a chance to win the season series when they meet for two games starting Friday night.

They will wrap up their set of eight regular season matchups with a matinee game on Sunday.

Anaheim is playing out the string and looked at as a seller as the NHL trade deadline approaches. But the Ducks are playing for pride, too, and the players want to finish the season strong.

“I think probably the most important thing for the finish is we’re still trying to create a winning culture, and I think we can’t get caught up in the mindset that every game we’re just going out to be evaluated on a singular level,” Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said recently.

“It’s not just a matter of letting ourselves slip and making the same mistakes, we have to keep improving and maturing as a team and learning our lessons and making sure we’re doing it as a team, and not just worrying what someone might be thinking of us or what kind of decision might be made going forward.”

While Anaheim is trying to establish something for the future, Colorado is playing for the present. The Avalanche have been on a month-long roll that vaulted them into first place in the West Division. Colorado earned at least a point in 15 straight games (13-0-2) before getting routed 8-3 in Minnesota on Wednesday night.

The eight goals were the most the Avalanche have allowed this season, and it’s the first time they’ve lost by more than a goal since March 1.

“You don’t want to blow it out of proportion, but you’re not just going to let it go either,” Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog said after the loss. “I think every single guy in that locker room hates losing. Some of us hate losing more than we like winning. That’s just the way it is. It doesn’t matter how many games you win in a row or where you’re at in the standings, it’s still a loss. But good teams learn from that.”

Rebounding is what the Avalanche will try to do in Southern California. Since the two teams last met on March 16, Colorado has acquired backup goaltender Jonas Johansson and gotten healthier. The team is still dealing with a couple of injuries, with forwards Matt Calvert (upper-body injury) and Logan O’Connor (lower-body injury) considered week-to-week.

The good news for the Avalanche is their top skills guys are healthy and playing at a high level. Most notably is the top line, which accounted for four points. Star center Nathan MacKinnon has at least one point in seven straight games and has five goals in the last four.

Linemate Mikko Rantanen has been equally hot, and his 22 goals is tied for third in the NHL.

–Field Level Media

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