Inching closer to their first division title in six years, the Anaheim Ducks can officially lock up a playoff spot with a point on Wednesday night in their home meeting with the lowly Colorado Avalanche.
After missing the postseason a year ago, the Ducks lead the Pacific Division with 59 points. They are 11 up on the second-place Los Angeles Kings and haven't won the division since their only Stanley Cup winning season in 2006-07.
Anaheim could have clinched a playoff spot during its off day on Tuesday had the Kings beaten the Dallas Stars, who sit ninth in the West with 41 points, but the Stars came through with a 5-1 victory at home. Still, the Ducks need only a point tonight to clinch a berth.
The Ducks still have time to make a run at the top seed on the conference as well. They trail the Chicago Blackhawks by five points for that spot with eight games to play, though the 'Hawks have a game in hand.
Anaheim won for the fourth time in five games on Monday, downing the Edmonton Oilers 2-1 in the fourth contest of a five-game homestand. The Ducks' strong play at home this season is a big reason they lead the division and they improved to 16-5-0 as the host with the recent victory.
"It's satisfying, but it's not the result," Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said of his team's pending playoff spot. "I remember hearing some people say at the beginning, 'Let's have a good year and we can maybe make the playoffs if we work hard.' But from Day 1, I've always believed that if you don't shoot for the moon, you're not going to get there. If you put the bar low, anybody can reach it. You've got to put the bar as high as you can as try to achieve those goals.
"The first goal was to make the playoffs, and then the second goal and then there's the third goal and onward and upward. Hopefully we can achieve it and soon."
Jonas Hiller made 27 saves and Radek Dvorak, who didn't join the Ducks until signing out of the Swiss league on March 24, scored both goals. The 36-year- old has scored three goals in five games since joining Anaheim and notched the 20th multi-goal game of his career.
Saku Koivu assisted on both goals as the Ducks won without leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf, who missed his third straight game with a lower body injury. He is questionable to return tonight, as is defenseman Sheldon Souray after he did not play on Monday due to an undisclosed injury.
The Avalanche are expected to get a healthy body back tonight as forward Paul Stastny is slated to return after missing the previous eight games due to a bruised left foot. He has 19 points in 31 games this season.
Forward Milan Hejduk is expected to miss a fifth straight game for the Avs due to a shoulder issue, but did travel and could play on Thursday in Los Angeles against the Kings.
However, goaltender Semyon Varlamov did not travel due to a hip injury suffered during the pregame of Monday's 3-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. Jean- Sebastien Giguere got the start in his place and gave up all three goals on 34 shots faced.
Playing in his sixth game of the season and 15th of his career, Brad Malone scored his first NHL goal, but the Avs lost their fifth straight and for the 13th time in 15 games. They are last in the NHL with 29 points and have not scored more than two goals in seven straight.
"At times, we've been playing good hockey. We've had some good shifts. We've been getting down in their zone and getting scoring chances," said Avs captain Gabriel Landeskog. "We're creating chances, but as a team, we're giving up too many chances. I know we're leaving (Giguere) out to dry."
Giguere, meanwhile, laid into his teammates to the Denver Post after the loss.
"Some guys are more worried about their Vegas trip at the end of the season than playing the games, than playing every minute of the games," the 35-year- old veteran told the paper. "Quite frankly, I don't care about your Vegas trip right now.
"It's embarrassing. I'm embarrassed to be here right now. It's not even funny."
Colorado hasn't had much fun this year on the road as it has lost 14 straight as the guest and is 2-15-3 overall as the visiting club. It hasn't won away from Denver since Feb. 14 in Minnesota.
The Ducks have won nine of their last 12 versus the Avs, including the first two of three meetings this season. They have won two straight and 10 of their last 12 at home in this series.