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GAME DAY: Anaheim

by Rob Mixer / Columbus Blue Jackets

BLUE JACKETS (14-14-7) VS. DUCKS (23-7-4)




Fresh off a season sweep of the other top team in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks look like a club ready to make a recent four-game losing skid a thing of the past - and further, prove it was a complete anomaly.

The Ducks, who weren't feeling so hot heading into United Center on Friday night after their longest winless streak of the season, didn't look like a team trying to get its confidence back. They were a hungry, determined group that hung in there with the high-flying Blackhawks in a 1-1 deadlock through the first 57:52 of regulation time, and got a crucial go-ahead goal from veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray that proved to be the game-deciding tally.

How's this for impressive? The Ducks - who some think could be the best team in the NHL - put up a perfect 3-0-0 record against the Blackhawks this year and probably played their best hockey in Chicago. Their win on Friday was a gutty one; the Ducks got a sweet goal from Corey Perry to open the scoring but got the brunt of a counterpunch from Chicago, the game-tying goal from Patrick Kane in the third period. Souray's goal was huge for a variety of reasons, but most importantly, the Ducks maintained their structure and held on for two crucial points.

Speaking of crucial points, they're all essential for the Blue Jackets right now. Coming off a wild 6-4 win in Calgary two nights ago, putting back-to-back wins together and continuing to climb the standings is the only option for Columbus - which sits one point behind the St. Louis Blues for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

They'll be tasked with slowing down the Ducks' offense which seems to come at opponents in waves, much like the Bruce Boudreau-coached Washington Capitals did during their remarkable run to the playoffs a few years back. Anaheim is getting quality defensive work from veterans like Souray, Francois Beauchemin and Bryan Allen, while youngsters such as Cam Fowler and Luca Sbisa round out a balanced group on the back end.

- JOIN US TODAY for Easter at Nationwide Arena. Kids will receive a Jared Boll puck, and will have access to candy stations. CLICK HERE FOR MORE

- The Calvert-Anisimov-Atkinson line continues to produce for the Blue Jackets, and got a goal from Calvert in Calgary after a four goal, four assist combined effort against the Oilers on Thursday. As a line, they've created a ton of turnovers and are getting scoring chances off the forecheck.

- After starting Steve Mason in Calgary, it's quite possible the Blue Jackets go back to Sergei Bobrovsky today vs. the Ducks. Columbus is 8-0-3 over its past 11 starts at Nationwide Arena and Bobrovsky was a big part of that.

- Jonas Hiller, who may start today for the Ducks, is 4-0-1 in his last five appearances.

- The Blue Jackets have already secured their most successful month in franchise history even though March isn't through. Their 9-2-4 record so far (22 points) surpasses a 9-4-2 March record in the 2009 season during the Jackets' run to the playoffs.

Corey Perry
2012-13 STATS: 11-17-28, 30 GP

Ducks GM Bob Murray has been accused of taking all the fun out of this year's NHL trade deadline by signing Perry and team captain Ryan Getzlaf to long-term contract extensions, but they'd prefer it be boring for different reasons. Perry is going to call Anaheim home for the foreseeable future and that's a good thing for the Ducks, who have seen four straight 60-point seasons from the 27-year-old power forward - including a 98-point season in 2009-10. Whether it's a big hit or a scoring chance, something usually happens when Perry is on the ice.

COLUMBUS: Brandon Dubinsky (lower body), on IR; Nick Foligno (upper body), day-to-day; Derek Dorsett (clavicle), on IR; Jared Boll (undisclosed), day-to-day; Tim Erixon (upper body), day-to-day

ANAHEIM: Nick Bonino (flu), day-to-day

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