Backed by outstanding defense and the solid play of Matt Duchene, the Colorado Avalanche are enjoying one of the best starts in team history.
The surprising Avalanche seek their 10th win in 11 games Sunday night against the Winnipeg Jets, who are looking to build on their first win during a difficult road trip.
After tying for the team lead with 43 points last season, Duchene's fast start this year has helped Colorado to the NHL's best record.
The center had another strong performance with two goals and an assist as the Avalanche (9-1-0) won their third straight, 4-2 over Carolina on Friday.
Duchene is among the league leaders with eight goals - five at home - and 12 points, though he's scored only once and totaled three points in five career games against the Atlanta/Winnipeg franchise.
A year after missing the playoffs for a third straight season, the Avs are off to their best start since going 9-0 with two ties to open the 2000-01 campaign.
"It's special, going from where we've gone the last year," Duchene said. "It feels great to be 9-1, the best team in the league. But you can't be satisfied. We know how fast that can turn. We've been there before early in seasons and really slowed down going down the stretch. So we've got to keep on moving the way we are."
Colorado's defense and goaltending have also been key, allowing 1.40 goals per game behind netminders Semyon Varlamov and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Varlamov, who stopped 28 of 30 shots against the Hurricanes, has a 1.73 goals-against average while winning six of his seven starts. Giguere has a pair of shutouts and a 0.67 GAA in three starts for the Avalanche, who lead the NHL with a .958 save percentage.
"Obviously, we've had the goaltending and we have a lot of depth," forward Paul Stastny said. "I think we're all playing together and sacrificing for each other."
That solid goalie tandem, however, hasn't been as sharp against the Jets (5-5-2). Varlamov allowed five goals on 25 shots in a 5-1 loss in his most recent meeting on Feb. 19, 2012, while Giguere is 1-2-1 with a 5.51 GAA in his last four against the franchise.
The Jets have averaged only 1.9 goals over their last 10 games, but snapped a three-game skid Saturday when Andrew Ladd scored the lone shootout goal in a 2-1 win in Dallas.
Following a 3-2 overtime loss at Nashville in the opener, the Jets have earned points in each of the first two games on a four-game trip against the Central Division.
"Yeah, nice to be on the other side of an overtime and shootout game for sure," Ladd said.
Ondrej Pavelec, who has started 11 of 12 games, also shined with a season-high 35 saves. He's 3-1-0 with a 1.75 GAA in four career starts against the Avalanche.
Evander Kane, who leads the Jets with six goals this season, has three goals and five points in his last three games against Colorado.
While the teams did not meet last season, the Jets seek their third straight win over the Avalanche since the franchise moved from Atlanta following the 2010-11 season.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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