The Ducks have an opportunity to score another season sweep tonight, though their previous matchups against the Colorado Avalanche were much harder fought than those against the Edmonton Oilers. To recap: in both games, the Ducks defeated the Avs 3-2. During Anaheim's most recent meeting with the Avs, at Honda Center, Corey Perry scored at 1:25 in overtime. In both games combined Colorado goalie Semyon Varlamov allowed six goals on 73 shots.
However, the Ducks will be facing a desperate Avs club who have a lot more to play for than the Oilers. Colorado currently has 82 points, which places them eight points behind the Winnipeg Jets. Both teams are fighting for the second wild card spot in the playoffs. Colorado's case for the slot took a major hit on Wednesday, when they lost 5-1 to the San Jose Sharks. With five games remaining in their schedule, look for them to give the Ducks everything they have. Gulp.
Ryan Kesler sat out Wednesday's game against the Oilers to rest an arm injury, but is expected to be back in the lineup tonight (yay!). Clayton Stoner, who has missed two games due to a lower-body injury, is also expected to return (I know how you feel...).
The goaltending picture also looks favorable for the Ducks. Frederik Andersen made 22 saves against the Avs in the game on March 20, whereas Colorado's Reto Berra is expected to make his third start in four months tomorrow. Berra played one of his worst games ever against the Ducks (while still in a Calgary Flames uniform), giving up all five goals during a 5-2 Ducks victory on November 29, 2013.
What Can We Learn From This Game:
Jakob Silfverberg, who has been a frustrating player for many of you (I know, I know), has played very well as of late, earning a career-record three assists against the Oilers on Wednesday. We will see if he can keep up his level of play throughout the rest of the season, or if he will eventually start hitting posts again.
The Ducks play the best (and make me the most comfortable) when their depth forwards come ready to play. Silfverberg's linemates Andrew Cogliano and Nate Thompson buzzed throughout last night's game against the Oilers, and defenseman Hampus Lindholm also looked sharp out there as well.
Though I imagine that most Ducks fans are already "over" our Pacific Division title, and are not particularly interested in a President's Trophy, either, the game against the Oilers showed that the Ducks are capable of imposing their will on an inferior team. This is what great teams do - crush the opposition decisively. Despite the tongue-in-cheekness of my Fearless Prediction, I will feel much better about this team if they crush the Avs tonight (particularly since the Avs have something to play for). We will see.
The Avalanche lead 2-0 going into the third period, but a rejuvenated Kesler erupts for a hat trick in the third period. (Fears about the Ducks' playoff performance are not assuaged).