The Anaheim Ducks (3-7-2) dropped their first four games of the 2015-16 season, and currently sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings, but things seem to be turning around for them.
In the Ducks' last two games, both of which were played on home ice at Honda Center, they've picked up key wins to get get back on track.
The Ducks defeated the Nashville Predators, 4-2, and Florida Panthers, 3-2 (SO), giving them some momentum for their upcoming game against the Blue Jackets (4-10-0) on Friday night in Anaheim.
In their most recent match-up, the Ducks got past the Panthers thanks to a late comeback followed by an intense shootout clincher. Corey Perry tied the game with seconds left in regulation and netminder Frederik Andersen made a few crucial stops to give the Ducks two points.
Head coach Bruce Boudreau’s team has qualified for the Stanley Cup playoffs the previous three campaigns. Last season, the Ducks swept the Winnipeg Jets in the first round and defeated the Calgary Flames in the second round, but fell to the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.
During the offseason, GM Bob Murray locked up Ryan Kesler to a six-year contract extension. The team picked up left winger Carl Hagelin from the New York Rangers in exchange for Emerson Etem and a draft pick. Additionally, they traded for Vancouver Canucks defenseman Kevin Bieksa and added veterans Shawn Horcoff, Chris Stewart and Mike Santorelli.
A few player notes: captain Ryan Getzlaf, forward Jiri Sekac and defenseman Simon Despres are all currently placed on injured reserve. Getzlaf had a successful appendectomy (non-emergency) more than a week ago and didn’t play in the Ducks' last game. Sekac was put on injured reserve because of a sprained right ankle suffered on Sunday, and Despres is suffering from an upper body injury.
Blue Jackets No.1 netminder Sergei Bobrovsky played in both San Jose and Los Angeles, so there's a possibility that Curtis McElhinney might be between the pipes for Columbus.
It was Mar. 24, 2015 when the Ducks and the Blue Jackets last played each other. After 60 minutes of hockey, the Jackets skated away with a 5-3 victory on home ice at Nationwide Arena in Columbus to continue their late-season surge.
A hat trick from Scott Hartnell (the eighth of his career) and 37 saves from Sergei Bobrovsky was all it took for the Jackets to lock up a fourth straight win and the seventh in their last eight games.
Hartnell was the first to put the Jackets on the board with a power play goal at the end of the first period. Anaheim had already opened the scoring, with Kesler getting the first one on a power play and Andrew Cogliano knocking in the second goal.
Halfway through the second period, the Jackets scored three goals in the span of 4:07, coming out with a 4-3 lead after trailing for most of the game. Here’s exactly what happened:
Ryan Johansen scored a goal that stood up after an extremely long video review with the NHL Situation Room in Toronto (tying the game at 2-2), and less than three minutes later, Hartnell scored his second of the night just 32 seconds after Matt Beleskey restored a one-goal lead for the Ducks.
At 11:48, Nick Foligno gave the home team the lead for good, beating John Gibson five-hole from the slot. It was Foligno’s 26th goal of the season. Bobrovsky had 14 saves in the third period and assisted the Jackets in keeping their lead.
Hartnell’s third goal came in form of an empty-netter at 19:23, and that was it.
Columbus is 25-22-4 in the all-time series against Anaheim. The Blue Jackets are 11-8-0 against the Ducks since the start of the 2009-10 season.
Corey Perry is the player to watch in this game. The right winger has scored one goal and notched three assists for a total of four points this season, perhaps a bit under expectations so far, but he's starting to get his chances.
The 30-year-old was drafted by the Ducks in the first round (28th overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft, and is currently playing in his 11th NHL season (all spent with Anaheim).
In 734 career NHL games, Perry has notched 297 goals and added 309 assists for a total of 606 points. In 90 NHL playoff games, spread over eight seasons, Perry has tallied 32 goals and 42 assists for 74 points.
The alternate captain has won the Stanley Cup with the club in 2007, won the Hart Memorial Trophy as the NHL MVP for the 2010-11 season. Internationally, he has won gold medals with Canada at the 2010 and 2014 Winter Olympics.