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Wednesday, 08.06.2014 / 2:49 AM

Associated Press

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Colorado Avalanche vs. Anaheim Ducks

Even without their captain, the Colorado Avalanche is cruising.

With Joe Sakic's return nearing, the Avalanche looks to make it a Southern California sweep Wednesday when it visits the Anaheim Ducks.

Sakic has been out since Nov. 30 with a groin injury and didn't make the trip to California, but he could return soon after Colorado returns to Denver for a four-game homestand starting Friday. In the meantime, the Avs (19-13-1) have won three in a row and five of their last six, including a 4-2 victory over Los Angeles Monday.

Colorado outshot the Kings 40-21, including a 16-4 edge in the first period while building a 3-0 lead.

"We came out really strong in the first period and we kind of rode that through the game," Avalanche defenseman Scott Hannan said. "It's always good to get two early goals because it's tough for the other team to come back from those kind of deficits."

Colorado is one of just eight NHL teams with at least 100 goals. Its top line of Ryan Smyth, Paul Stastny and Milan Hejduk has 38 points in the last nine games.

But the Avs' improved defense has keyed their recent run. Colorado has allowed just four total goals during its current three-game winning streak, as goalie Peter Budaj has racked up 80 saves on 84 shots.

Colorado has won two in a row on the road after starting just 4-10-1 away from Denver.

"We've been playing better as a team, and we're harder to play against," Colorado coach Joel Quenneville said. "We're more diligent with our positioning and playing the kind of road game that can frustrate the opposition and lead to turnovers."

Anaheim (16-15-5) ended a three-game losing streak with a 2-0 victory at San Jose on Tuesday night. In the second game of his return after considering retirement, Scott Niedermayer registered his first point of the season, assisting on rookie Bobby Ryan's second-period goal.

Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 20 saves for his first shutout of the season.

"My goal should be overshadowed by Giggy's effort," Ryan said of Giguere, who had allowed three or more goals in six of his previous eight games. "He was outstanding."

Still, it's been a struggle recently for the Ducks, who haven't scored more than two goals in any of their last four games, including three straight losses at home.

This is the first meeting between these teams this season. Anaheim ended a four-game slide against the Avalanche with a 5-3 home victory in the last matchup on Feb. 25.

2007-2008 season series
DateScoreW. Goal
Mar 06 '08 ANA 0 at COL 1 W. Wolski
Feb 20 '08 COL 2 at ANA 3 - SO C. Perry
Feb 12 '08 ANA 2 at COL 1 S. Pahlsson
Dec 19 '07 COL 1 at ANA 2 - OT M. Schneider is the official Web site of the Colorado Avalanche. Colorado Avalanche and are trademarks of Colorado Avalanche, LLC. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2015 Colorado Avalanche Hockey Team, Inc. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.