Two weeks ago, there was a lot of teeth-gnashing over the state of the Colorado Avalanche. They had lost seven of eight games and had dropped in the Central Division standings.
Now, with two games to go before a nine-day break, Colorado is riding a six-game winning streak and is playing like theteam that won it all last year.
The Avalanche will go for their seventh straight victory when they host the Anaheim Ducks on Thursday night in Denver.
Colorado has won its past four games without All-Star defenseman Cale Makar in the lineup. Makar has an upper-body injury and is skating with the team, but the Avalanche are being cautious with him. They did not practice on Wednesday or hold media availability, so Makar's status for Thursday's game hasn't been revealed.
Colorado has been dealing with injuries to top players all season - captain Gabriel Landeskog has yet to play - and has relied on its depth, especially at forward.
While Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen are the offensive stars, the Avs are getting help from other lines. Alex Newhook and Andrew Cogliano scored in Tuesday's 3-2 win over Washington and have been chipping in more and more.
"This year, you've had to find a way to work with different options and different guys, but I've played with (Logan O'Connor) for a while now, and we do a good job of reading off of each other," Cogliano said after Tuesday's triumph. I think we're predictable to ourselves. And for (Newhook), I think he has a skill set that complements us, and I think we play a game that might complement him a little bit.
"We just have to continue doing what we are doing and provide a little bit of spark on that third line. And like I said, [defense] is the biggest thing, and when we get opportunities, put them in."
Anaheim is coming off a 5-2 win at Arizona on Tuesday night, its second win in the last three games. The Ducks aren't in playoff contention, and barring an unprecedented stretch over the next five weeks, they will be sellers at the March 3 trade deadline.
One player they are likely to keep is leading scorer Trevor Zegras, who extended his points streak to six games with an assist against the Coyotes.
Troy Terry also scored to end a 16-game goal drought, although he had 12 assists in the last 14 games.
"Troy's our best player, and it was great to see him score because it's been awhile now despite getting excellent chances every night," Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. "But that's Troy. He has that ability to go through people; he's unbelievable at putting pucks underneath guys' sticks and controlling it that way. I think he could have easily added a couple more."
The Avalanche hope Makar can return Thursday, and the Ducks have the same hope for their defenseman John Klingberg, who sat out Tuesday's game with an illness and is listed as day-to-day ahead of the matchup with Colorado.
--Field Level Media