Tue, 31 Mar 2020

Avalanche begin quick West Coast swing in Anaheim

Field Level Media
21 Feb 2020, 12:25 GMT+10

The Colorado Avalanche are among the higher-scoring teams in the NHL, but they will continue to look for scoring options as they hit the road for a quick two-game swing through California that begins a long stretch of away games.

The Avalanche arrive in Anaheim to face the Ducks on Friday, and they will visit the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday.

Colorado still is led by Nathan MacKinnon, but forwards Mikko Rantanen (upper body), Nazem Kadri (lower body) and Matt Calvert (lower body) are out.

Rantanen, who was injured after getting tripped into the boards Monday, is one of four Avalanche players with 40 or more points, and Kadri is right behind that group. Forward Martin Kaut made his NHL debut with the Avalanche on Wednesday during a 3-1 victory over the New York Islanders.

Before that win, the Avalanche had lost three consecutive games, although two were to a pair of solid Eastern Conference teams, the Washington Capitals and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The other defeat came to a struggling Los Angeles Kings team on Saturday amid the outdoor conditions at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs.

Colorado also is without goalie Philipp Grubauer, who was injured in the Saturday game. Pavel Francouz has made two consecutive starts, giving up a late goal against the Islanders to spoil his shutout bid but finishing with 27 saves.

The Avalanche will lean on Francouz to start a stretch in which they play eight of their next 10 games on the road.

"I feel like we'll just get our confidence back, and I really hope we're going to start a stretch where we keep winning and winning," Francouz said.

Because Francouz has made just 21 starts this season, coach Jared Bednar said he is considering using the goalie in both games of the back-to-back at Anaheim and Los Angeles. The Avalanche also will take advantage of the close geographical proximity of the contests.

"The one thing about this back-to-back, Anaheim and L.A., we're not going to pregame skate, no travel involved once we get there," Bednar said. "We're trying to manage everyone's workload and give our guys as much rest as we can so we can come out energized."

The Ducks can't seem to find that energy, at least not at home. They had earned points in six consecutive road games before losing at home to the Calgary Flames on Monday, 6-4. They have lost three consecutive games on home ice, including a 4-1 decision to the Florida Panthers on Wednesday.

Now the Ducks are without defenseman Cam Fowler, who was a late scratch Wednesday due to a nagging lower-body injury after participating in the morning skate.

With three defeats in their past four games overall, and a 2-3-2 record going back to Feb. 6 (not including the Feb. 11 postponed game against the St. Louis Blues), the Ducks are dragging into the final two months of the schedule.

"It's a learning process for (the young players), and we have to get more out of our veteran players as well," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. "Our young guys are going to have ups and downs. They have all gotten better, and that's what's important, but the one thing they need to take home here is that we're not going to accept losing."

--Field Level Media

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