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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Sunday, April 13th (All times Eastern)

Colorado Avalanche (52-22-7) at Anaheim Ducks (53-20-8), 8 p.m.

(SportsNetwork.com) - The Colorado Avalanche may have already clinched the Central Division before evening stepping onto the ice on Sunday night.

If not, they will try to take care of business against the Western Conference champion Anaheim Ducks as the Avs eye their first division title since 2003.

The Avalanche are tied atop the division standings with the struggling St. Louis Blues, who have lost five straight. Both clubs have 111 points, but Colorado owns the tiebreaker with four more non-shootout wins and only needs to match St. Louis in points to win the Central crown.

St. Louis also is in action on Sunday as it hosts the Detroit Red Wings in the afternoon. That means that Colorado will know exactly how many points, if any, it needs going into this matchup with the Ducks.

The Avalanche could have locked up the division title and a first-round playoff meeting with the Minnesota Wild on Friday, when the Blues lost to the Dallas Stars. However, Colorado failed to do its part as it lost 5-1 to the San Jose Sharks.

Despite knowing what was at stake, Colorado head coach Patrick Roy still decided to start goaltender Reto Berra and the third-stringer was quickly removed after allowing two goals on five shots in a little over 10 minutes. Backup Jean-Sebastien Giguere made 22 saves in relief.

Semyon Varlamov was given the night off a day after earning his NHL-best 41st win to break Roy's single-season franchise record. He is expected to start tonight.

Patrick Bordeleau had the lone goal for the Avs, who had been 8-0-1 in their previous nine games.

"We kind of control our own fate here," said Avs defenseman Erik Johnson. "As tough as it was to give this one up, we still control our own fate. That's a good position to be in."

Though forward P.A. Parenteau returned from a 15-game absence caused by a knee injury, defenseman Tyson Barrie missed the final two periods on Friday with an upper-body injury. He has 13 goals and 38 points in 64 games this season.

John Mitchell also did not play because of headaches, while star forward Matt Duchene remains out with a bruised knee.

The Ducks close out their regular season after picking up a 4-3 shootout victory over the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. That extended Anaheim's point total to a club-record 114 points, giving the Ducks the top seed in the Western Conference thanks to the victory.

"They all knew that they just needed a point," said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. "We never talked about it, but you could tell after the game was over that they all knew because they all turned and some of them were high- fiving each other. It's a pretty good accomplishment for them. Then we said well let's go win it in the shootout."

A regulation loss by the Ducks would have set up a winner-take-all showdown for the West's top seed Sunday in Anaheim against the Colorado Avalanche.

Devante Smith-Pelly scored the only shootout goal and also lit the lamp in regulation along with Nick Bonino and Matt Beleskey. Frederik Andersen had 27 saves.

The Ducks, who won their third straight game, will face Dallas in the first round of the playoffs.

Veteran forwards Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne were healthy scratches on Saturday, but are expected to play in tonight's finale. This will mark Selanne's final regular season game as he plans to retire at season's end.

The Ducks and Avalanche have split a pair of meetings this season, both in Colorado, and Anaheim has won five of the previous seven encounters on home ice.

04/13 10:55:47 ET