Ducks go for two straight against surging Blues
Wednesday, 12.07.2011 / 2:44 PMDUCKS (8-14-5) at BLUES (15-9-3)
TV: PRIME (HD), FS-MW (HD)
Anaheim 2-6-2; St. Louis 6-2-2
This is the second of four meetings between Anaheim and St. Louis. The Ducks won 4-2 back on Oct. 16 as their dynamic first line of Corey Perry
, Ryan Getzlaf
and Bobby Ryan
combined for six points. The Blues have a three-game home winning streak against Anaheim.
The Blues haven't shown any signs of slowing down after Ken Hitchcock took over the coaching reins from Davis Payne on Nov. 6. St. Louis has managed at least a point in 12 of the 14 games that Hitchcock has been behind the bench and maintains a 5-1-1 record over its last seven. New Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau finally got a win Tuesday night in his third try, and he'll now aim for his first road victory with his new club.
Anaheim is 2-7-2 over its last 11 games, but a majority of that cold streak happened when its old coach Randy Carlyle was still at the helm. While Boudreau hasn't exactly hit the ground running yet with his new club, he has led them to three points out of a possible six with a 1-1-1 record thus far.
The Ducks have a steep uphill battle ahead of them, but continuing strong efforts like Tuesday's 3-2 overtime victory over the rival Los Angeles Kings can get them back into the thick of things. Ryan tallied what could be argued as the biggest Ducks goal of the season with just under 50 seconds left in OT to give Boudreau his first win with the team.
"It's not the Cup, but it felt pretty good," Boudreau told anaheimducks.com after the game. "There is no doubt. I felt really good for the players because they were smiling. They worked so hard."
Prior to Hitchcock taking over, it appeared St. Louis might be destined to miss the playoffs for the third straight season. But with "Hitch" running the show, the Blues now appear poised to make a run at their first division title since the 1999-2000 season, when they won the Central Division and captured the Presidents' Trophy with 114 points.
Tuesday's impressive win over the rival Red Wings put St. Louis in a tie for points with Detroit with 33. Alexander Steen
and David Backes
tallied power-play goals, while Patrik Berglund
's even-strength score gave St. Louis the insurance to overcome a late third-period goal by Detroit's Jiri Hudler. The Blues' two power-play goals helped them break free of a previous 2-for-39 slump with the man advantage.
"Enough's enough," Backes told reporters following the game. "Hopefully, this is a springboard toward teams not being able to take those liberties because they know they can kill our power play."
Perry has 12 points (6g, 6a) over his last 10 games for the Ducks. … Goalie Brian Elliott
has wins in seven of his last eight starts for St. Louis with a 1.50 goals-against average over that span.
Anaheim goalie Dan Ellis
remains out with a groin strain, while defenseman Matt Smaby
(thumb) and Lubomir Visnovsky
(finger) and forward Jason Blake
(wrist) are on injured reserve. … For the Blues, forwards Evgeny Grachev
(facial injury) and B.J. Crombeen
(shoulder) are both nearing returns.
The Blues' improvement on the power play Tuesday is a step toward getting them out of last place in the NHL in that category with just a 10.5 percent success rate.
Despite Anaheim's struggles this season, all it took was one big win to get everyone thinking positive again. The sentiment of great relief was expressed by Ryan after Tuesday's win over L.A.
"It's a whole different feeling coming into this (locker) room tonight. It's huge," he told anaheimducks.com reporter Adam Brady.