Posted December 30, 2011 on AP on Fox
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Because they've struggled on the road so much, the Colorado Avalanche will face a huge challenge in the coming weeks. A difficult stretch of games won't be made any easier if standout center Matt Duchene misses any length of time. The Avalanche seek a seventh win in eight games Saturday night when they open a four-game trip against the last-place Anaheim Ducks. Colorado (20-18-1) closed a home-heavy stretch with a 3-2 victory over Phoenix on Thursday, getting a goal and an assist from rookie Gabriel Landeskog and 25 saves from Semyon Varlamov. It was the league-leading 14th one-goal win for the Avalanche, who went 8-1-0 at Pepsi Center in December to match the franchise record for home wins in a single month. "When the games are tight, we come out with our best and are pretty confident," defenseman Stefan Elliott told the team's official website. The win may have come at a steep price for Colorado, which lost Duchene to a right knee injury early in the first period. Duchene - the team leader with 12 goals - wore a brace on his right knee after the game. "He's without a doubt one of the best players in the league,'' Landeskog said. "It's definitely a big blow to us, but at the same time we have a good team in here.'' Colorado plays seven of its next eight on the road, where it had lost nine straight games before beating Minnesota 4-2 on Monday for its first win away from home since Oct. 22. Though Varlamov has won his last two starts, coach Joe Sacco could start Jean-Sebastien Giguere against his former team. Giguere, who had a personal four-game win streak snapped by Winnipeg on Tuesday, would make his first start against the Ducks in Anaheim, where he spent the bulk of his 13-year career. Giguere, who helped the Ducks win the 2007 Stanley Cup, beat Anaheim in Toronto as a member of the Maple Leafs on Jan. 20. "This game has been on my mind all year. I've been looking at the calendar. The first game I looked up was when we would play in Anaheim," Giguere said. "I've been looking forward to it since the beginning of the year and I'm hoping the reaction is going to be good." The Ducks' disappointing season continued Thursday with a 5-2 loss to Vancouver in the opener of a six-game homestand. Bobby Ryan and Nick Bonino scored third-period goals for Anaheim (10-20-6), which has lost five of six and 16 of 20. "In the games we've lost, we've beaten ourselves,'' said coach Bruce Boudreau, who is 3-7-2 since taking over for Randy Carlyle. "All five of their goals, they were based on turnovers." Jonas Hiller allowed four goals or more for the third time in five starts before he was replaced by Dan Ellis at 7:59 of the second period. The Ducks have lost 18 of the 19 games in which Hiller has yielded more than two goals. "We knew they were hot right now and one of the top teams, but it looked like we weren't ready to compete with them,'' Hiller said. Hiller hasn't received much support from his offense, which ranks among the league's worst with 2.33 goals per game. Captain Ryan Getzlaf has been one of the biggest culprits, scoring two goals in his last 27 games. Getzlaf's club, however, has scored 27 goals during a six-game win streak against the Avalanche. Teemu Selanne has five goals with seven assists in those six games for the Ducks.
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