Win one and lose one. That's been the trend over the last 10 games for the Ducks, who haven't strung together consecutive victories since January 17-19. The inconsistency in their game for the last month and a half has allowed the Calgary Flames, winners of seven in a row, to catch them in the tightly contested Pacific Division playoff race. So when does the proverbial "playoff mindset" kick in for a team that is still (technically) within reach of first place in the division, yet a regulation loss away from getting kicked down to a wild card spot?
"It starts now," said Ducks alternate captain Ryan Kesler. "We're right in the thick of things and it's exciting having games mean something right now. Last year we were chasing, but this year we're in the thick of it."
Their 2-1 loss two nights ago against the Vancouver Canucks was a missed opportunity, plain and simple, and the players understand that tonight is yet another chance to learn from their mistakes.
"That Vancouver game was a weird one," winger Nick Ritchie said. "We didn't play an awful game, but we didn't have our usual jump. We could've pounced on a team like that. We missed on that one. Tonight we get another chance. Last game at home before we go on the road for a couple. It's going to be a playoff atmosphere tonight."
Expect to see Jonathan Bernier in net for the sixth consecutive game (his 21st start of the season). Bernier has two wins in his last four starts and brings a 10-7-2 record, 2.85 goals-against average and .905 save percentage into tonight's game.
John Gibson was not on the ice for the club's optional skate this morning, and it remains to be seen if he'll be healthy enough to play in either of the back-to-back games on Thursday and Friday in Chicago and St. Louis, respectively.
The Predators are expected to roll with veteran goaltender Pekka Rinne tonight - the first of a three-game California swing that continues on Thursday in LA and Saturday at San Jose. Tonight would mark Rinne's 50th game of the season and the 497th game of his career. The 34-year-old netminder comes in with a 25-16-6 record, 2.54 GAA and .914 SV%. One of his two shutouts this season came in Nashville's 5-0 victory over the Ducks on November 12 at Bridgestone Arena. Rinne is 3-1-0 with one shutout, a 1.96 GAA and .938 SV% in his last four games against the Ducks (Oct. 22, 2015-Nov. 12, 2016).
Earlier today, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle emphasized the importance of his team playing with speed. When they do, he says, they're going north-south and attacking with authority. We've seen it at times, and Carlyle says it's been addressed.
"We've identified areas we want to shore up," he said. "When we're playing well, we're playing fast. We're in attack mode instead of going D to D. We're quick-upping the puck. When we don't play that way, we seem to stall and go back with the puck. We play a more controlled game. Be on the move with it and establish that strong forecheck and puck-possession game in the offensive zone. The rest will take care of itself."
Potential Line Combinations
Video: The Ducks look ahead to the matchup with Nashville