The Colorado Avalanche won a hard fought battle against the Phoenix Coyotes on Thursday evening and now head back on the road, beginning a four game road trip against the extremely disappointing Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks boast some of the most highly regarded top line talent in the game, including reigning MVP Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan, top center Ryan Getzlaf, and the ageless Teemu Selanne. Their goalie Jonas Hiller suffered through vertigo last season, but was expected to rebound completely healthy. Instead, this playoff contender has been completely disappointing across the board, remaining only a single point ahead of the Columbus Blue Jackets for last in the league. The Ducks have already fired one of the longest tenured coaches in the league, Randy Carlyle, and replaced him with ousted Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau -- yet the poor play continues. Now the Ducks will have to look forward to a top three selection in next year's draft.
For Colorado, this game has plenty of significance. They face a road-heavy schedule in January (only three home games all month) and 10 of their next 13 games are all on the road against the very same Western Conference opponents they are fighting against for a playoff spot. The West playoff picture is completely gridlocked. Colorado currently sits in a tie for ninth place in the conference; a win against Anaheim could vault them over four other teams and by themselves in seventh place. A single point tonight could create a five-way (or even six-way) tie for eighth place in the conference.
The Avalanche will have to face this incredibly important slate of games without the services of top forward Matt Duchene, who is likely to miss the next month with a serious knee injury after hitting the boards hard on a check against Phoenix. Winger David Jones is healthy again and likely to return to the lineup in his place.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere is scheduled to get the start against Anaheim the team he won the Stanley Cup with in 2007.
Puck drops at 6:00 p.m. MDT.
For more coverage, visit our Avalanche blog Mile High Hockey and our Ducks blog Anaheim Calling.