Season Series: This is the second of four season meetings. Way back on Oct. 30, Colorado won 3-2 when Matt Duchene broke a 2-2 tie with an early third-period goal.
Big Story: Both teams kick off the 2012 slate riding impressive hot streaks under midseason coaching replacements. After some early-season hiccups, Colorado has won seven of eight to climb to ninth in the conference under the direction of Joe Sacco. Meanwhile, new coach Darryl Sutter has Los Angeles surging, with a 4-0-2 record since he took over on Dec. 22.
Avalanche: Colorado rang in the New Year in style, topping Anaheim 4-2 on Saturday night to start a four-game road swing. Playing in the Honda Center for the first time since he was traded in 2010, Jean-Sebastien Giguere stopped 18 shots for an emotional win against the Ducks.
"It's definitely a special night for him," said Milan Hejduk, who scored two goals to snap a 13-game goal drought. "He's done so many great things for this franchise, and they didn't forget about it. ... We're a confident group right now, and we're trying to keep it up."
With help from Hejduk, Colorado masked the loss of star center Duchene, who will miss at least four weeks after sustaining a knee injury against Phoenix on Thursday.
Kings: Los Angeles is back in the Western top three after a 4-1 home win over mighty Vancouver. Much like Colorado, the Kings benefited from fine goalie play as well as the re-emergence of an offensive star. Jonathan Quick showed why he is back in the Vezina discussion, allowing just one goal on 28 shots. And Anze Kopitar – scoreless in 17 games and 47 recorded shots – finally got off the mark with his second-period snipe.
"When you go through struggles like this, it always feels good when you get it off your back," Kopitar said. "And there's no better place and time to do it, I guess, than when you're playing Vancouver. It was a huge win for us to end this year on a good note."
Who's Hot: Kopitar will love to see Colorado on the schedule. The forward has led Los Angeles to an 8-1-1 record over their last 10 meetings with Colorado, recording 5 goals and 9 assists in that span.
Injury Report: In addition to Duchene, Colorado will skate without Ryan Wilson (head), Peter Mueller (concussion) and Mark Olver (head), who are all on injured reserve. … Los Angeles will also be without a key attacker after Simon Gagne went out indefinitely on Dec. 27 with an upper-body injury. Scott Parse will miss the remainder of the season with a hip injury.
Stat Pack: Before their first meeting this season, Quick was a perfect 7-0-0 in his career against the Avs, with a 2.27 GAA and two shutouts. Colorado found a way in that one, but with Quick 5-0-1 over his last six starts, a Duchene-less Avalanche will have their work cut out for them.
Puck Drop: "We've been playing pretty good, and tonight we got contributions from different guys. We're trying to get everybody to play up-tempo. It can't be hit-and-miss. They all have different levels of skill-set. So if we can get them to play with a little bit more of a push, then we can all play at a higher level." – Kings coach Darryl Sutter on his team's recent push