The Canucks take on the Ducks tonight in Anaheim in Canucks first road game and the Ducks home opener.
The Canucks and the Ducks faced each other twice in the preseason, with Vancouver coming away victorious in both games. Last season the teams split their regular season series 2-2.
Vancouver goes into tonight’s game 1-0-1, after winning their last game against the Florida Panthers. Anaheim is winless in three games - just one of two teams yet to record a ‘W’ going into their home opener.
Vancouver has allowed only two goals in as many games with Roberto Luongo making 72 saves, good for .973 SV%. The team has scored three goals, all of which were netted by the first line of Daniel and Henrik Sedin, and Mikael Samuelsson. Christian Ehrhoff scored the first point of the regular season.
Anaheim allowed 13 goals in three games - the most goals allowed in the Western Conference. Jonas Hiller has blocked 126 shots (.905 SV%) and has a 4.62 GAA - a number he’ll want to improve upon tonight. After going scoreless in their season opener against the Red Wings, the Ducks have scored two goals in their following two games. Both goals were scored by Saku Koivu, who recorded 52 points (19-33-52) with the Ducks last season.
The Ducks do lead the league in one thing so far this season: penalty minutes. They’ve racked up 145 penalty minutes in three games, including four 10-minute misconducts, 7 fighting calls, and 28 minors, which include 13 roughing penalties.
The return of Rick Rypien, who was injured in his first preseason game could not have come at a more perfect time. The gritty forward is not afraid to get rough and hit hard, recording 126 penalty minutes in 69 games last season. Judging from Anaheim’s record and the three times the teams fought each other during the preseason Vancouver can expect a scrappy game tonight.
The last time the Ducks went winless in their first four games was in 2008.2009, but Anaheim’s slow start doesn’t mean Canucks will take this game lightly. The Ducks return home for the first time this season, which means they’ll have more energy to pull out a win for the home crowd at the Honda Center.
“I’m sure they’re not happy about their 0-3 start, kind of like us last year,” Luongo said yesterday. “They are going to come out hard for sure, they’re going to want it, especially for the fans. We need to be ready, we have to make sure we play a good game and do the little things right.”
Despite leading the Northwest in scoring last season, Vancouver has come out with two low-scoring games and in need of contributions from the whole team.
“To think that any team in the NHL can blow out teams is unrealistic, not to say naïve. There’s so much parity, and great goaltending, sometimes you get low scoring games.”
Puck drops tonight at 7:00pm PT on TSN.
When the puck drops tonight in Anaheim it will mark Keith Ballard’s 400th NHL game. The 27-year-old, Minnesota native was drafted 11th overall by Buffalo in the 2002 entry draft, and spent five NHL seasons with the Phoenix Coyotes and the Florida Panthers.
Despite spending five seasons in the NHL, Ballard has never seen the playoffs.
While playing in Florida last season, Ballard recorded the second most ice time on the team, as well as 156 hits, also ranked second on the team. Ballard has gained a reputation for his hip check, inspiring pages of Youtube clips featuring massive hits by Ballard. Not afraid to get his hands dirty, he also got into four fights in each of his last two seasons.
Ballard had a slow start to his first preseason with the Canucks, due in part to undergoing hip surgery over the summer, but promises to add some grit to the team’s third line. Two games in, Ballard has four hits and eight blocked shots.
Ballard is set to play tonight with Andrew Alberts.