Ducks-Avalanche Preview

The Anaheim Ducks seem to be getting hot at just the right time

thanks in large part to the efforts of Dan Ellis.

The Ducks will try for a fifth consecutive win and 14th in 16

games against the free-falling Colorado Avalanche, who are hoping

to avoid matching their longest home losing streak in franchise

history Friday night.

Following a five-game winless streak, Anaheim (36-26-5) has gone

on to win four of five – including a 5-2 victory over the New York

Rangers on Wednesday night.

Ellis, who was acquired from Tampa Bay prior to the trade

deadline, made 30 saves against the Rangers to improve to 4-1-1

with a 2.26 goals-against average since joining the Ducks.

Ellis, 4-1-0 with one shutout and a 2.01 GAA lifetime against

Colorado, has helped Anaheim remain in contention for one of the

last five playoff spots in the Western Conference.

“Dan has given us a chance to win games, and that’s all we ask

our goalies to do,” coach Randy Carlyle said. “He stepped in and

made some critical saves at important times.”

Ellis stopped 22 shots in a 3-2 win over Colorado on Feb. 27 as

the Ducks continued their recent domination in the series.

While the Avalanche (26-32-8) haven’t been able to beat Anaheim

of late, they’ve also struggled at home, and could be without

John-Michael Liles as they try to avoid matching a franchise-worst

eight-game home losing skid from Oct. 21-Nov. 24, 1990.

Colorado, 0-6-1 in its last seven home games, lost its sixth

straight overall and dropped to 1-14-2 in its last 17 games with a

5-2 defeat at Minnesota on Tuesday night.

“Very, very frustrating,” said defenseman Ryan O’Byrne, who

returned from a four-game absence due to a facial injury. “We’re so

close. We’re just about there. It’s been a rough stretch. We just

need to go over that one more hill and hopefully get on a roll

here.”

Liles, who ranks in the top 10 among defensemen and leads the

team with 36 assists, suffered a leg injury against the Wild and

his status for this game is unknown. He is the only player to

appear in all 66 games for Colorado.

Peter Budaj made 20 saves Tuesday. Since winning four of five

against the Ducks, Budaj has gone 0-6-2 with a 3.11 GAA in eight

starts in the series.

As Ellis continues to fill in nicely for Anaheim’s No. 1

goaltender Jonas Hiller, who is dealing with a case of vertigo, the

offense has also responded.

Left wing Bobby Ryan tallied his 31st goal and three assists

against the Rangers while right wing Corey Perry and defenseman

Lubomir Visnovsky each recorded two goals and an assist.

Perry leads the team with a career-high 33 goals and 71 points

while Visnovsky, tied for the team lead with 40 assists, has five

goals and two assists in his last three games.

“He’s shooting the puck, and we’ve all become accustomed to his

level of skill when he does shoot it,” Carlyle said. “He shoots it

extremely accurate and extremely hard.

“When you combine that with a pretty dependable partner in Toni

Lydman, who doesn’t really join the rush, he has more freedom

playing a lot behind our top forward line.”

Perry recorded his second hat trick of the season in a 3-0 win

at Colorado on Feb. 5.