The Colorado Avalanche are making a quick trip through Southern California, and if things go right they’ll walk away with two wins in 24 hours.
Colorado, one of the hottest teams in the NHL, kept surging with a 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night and now heads 45 minutes northwest to face the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
The Kings have stumbled after winning four in a row. They dropped their last two games and have given up six goals in each game.
Now they face an Avalanche team that has suffered just four regulation losses since Nov. 6.
Colorado won seven of the eight games between the teams last year and outscored Los Angeles 28-12. Facing a streaking team is a concern, but a bigger worry for Kings coach Todd McClellan is the 12 goals allowed in the last two games.
“We’ve got to play them. I’d be concerned if the Ontario Reign was coming in,” McLellan said, referring to the team’s AHL affiliate. “It doesn’t matter who we play, it’s about us, and we’ve got to clean some things up.”
McClellan said the 12 goals allowed in the last two games doesn’t fall solely on the goaltenders.
“A little bit of everything (has gone wrong),” McLellan said. “You’ve heard us use the word ‘identity’ a lot in the last month and it’s gone away on us again a little bit.”
The Avalanche have been putting up plenty of goals but they showed they can win a defensive game, too. Wednesday’s game was scoreless until late in the second period, and it was still in question when the Ducks pulled their goaltender for an extra skater.
Nazem Kadri, Colorado’s leading scorer, iced it with an empty-net goal.
The goal, his 15th of the season, came after he won the “last man in” fan vote to take part in the NHL All-Star Game next month in Las Vegas.
“It’s exciting, obviously,” Kadri said Wednesday. “I’ve put in a lot of hard work this year. It could have been any of these guys on the team. It’s an honor and a privilege. I can’t wait to represent myself and our team.”
He joins teammates Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar on the Central Division team.
Wednesday was Pavel Francouz’s first shutout of the season and his second straight solid game. He came into Monday’s shootout win over Minnesota when Darcy Kuemper was knocked out of the game and made three saves in the shootout.
He has proved that after missing last season and the first part of this one he is back in form.
Kuemper was hit up high by Jordan Greenway and left the game after the NHL’s concussion spotter made the call to remove him. Coach Jared Bednar said Kuemper would be in net against Los Angeles.
Colorado could also have Valeri Nichushkin back Thursday. Nichushkin was put into health and safety protocol before Monday’s game and can join the team if he tests out of the protocol.
–Field Level Media