NHL

Avalanche-Ducks Preview

While the Anaheim Ducks have their eyes set on the Presidents' Trophy, the Colorado Avalanche simply want to earn a wild-card spot.

The former appears far more likely following a hard-fought victory for the Ducks, but the Avalanche can keep their fading playoff hopes alive with a win Friday night in Anaheim.

The Ducks (45-20-7) are tied atop the NHL with Montreal after securing their 96th and 97th points Wednesday in a 3-2 overtime win against Los Angeles. Patrick Maroon and Jakob Silfverberg each scored third-period goals, and Ryan Kesler netted the overtime winner for the 200th goal of his career - 18 of which have come in his first season after coming over from Vancouver.

"Obviously, you hear about why you're brought here," Kesler said. "I mean, it's a team game, but you want to play your best. You want to make them happy that they brought you here."

The Ducks have won three in a row, all with John Gibson in net. The rookie made his fourth consecutive start Wednesday - seemingly supplanting Frederik Andersen atop the depth chart - and owns a 1.66 goals-against average over his winning streak.

He's been perfect in one-goal games this season, and including shootouts the Ducks are 10-1-1 in one-goal affairs in 2015. That ability to persevere in tight spots may not provide much comfort for coach Bruce Boudreau, but he understands that it may bode well for his team moving forward.

"Believe me, I'll be nervous as all get-out in any one-goal game in the playoffs," Boudreau said. "But I think the players know what they have to do, and I think they're calm, which is just as important as me being calm."

Colorado (33-26-11) beat Arizona 5-2 on Thursday for its third straight win, and currently sits seven points back of Winnipeg for the second wild-card position in the Western Conference.

With 12 games to go and two teams between them and the Jets, the Avalanche's playoff hopes are slim, but six wins in their last seven games have kept the team inspired.

"We have to take care of our business but it's nice to get some help," Matt Duchene told the team's official website after scoring in the third. "We have a game in hand (on Winnipeg), so we can take care of that (Friday against the Ducks)."

Jarome Iginla scored his team-leading 23rd goal Thursday and Gabriel Landeskog netted his 20th as they continue to pace Colorado's hot stretch. Iginla has four goals in his last seven games, while Landeskog has four goals and nine points over that same span. .

Semyon Varlamov made 27 saves for his sixth consecutive win, and owns a 1.17 GAA in that stretch. His status for Friday, however, is uncertain after starting 25 of Colorado's 26 games since Jan. 15 - with his only off day coming in a 5-2 loss to Los Angeles on March 10.

Varlamov is 1-4-0 with a 3.86 GAA in five starts this season with no rest, but the Avs' other option isn't very enticing. Backup Reto Berra has a 3.42 GAA in 14 appearances and has not started since Nov. 25.

Colorado fell to Anaheim 3-2 on Nov. 2 and has not beaten the Ducks in the last three meetings.

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