While the Ducks are looking to bounce back from a rather disheartening loss two nights ago, the Blue Jackets are looking to rebound from one they thought was unjust.
Wednesday night, as the Ducks were losing to the Stars 6-2 in Anaheim, the Jackets suffered a 3-2 defeat at Los Angeles. The game ended in controversial fashion
when a last-second Drew Doughty goal appeared to come after the clock stopped for a full second in the final moments.
It was yet another blow in a rough season for the Blue Jackets, who come into Anaheim having lost six in a row. Part of the reason for their demise is a ton of injuries, but they did activate major offseason acquisition Jeff Carter yesterday after he missed 10 games with a separated shoulder suffered in the last Ducks-Jackets game, on Jan. 8.
That game was one of the catalysts for a nice 9-1-1 run for the Ducks, and a six-game home winning streak that was halted Wednesday night vs. Dallas. Bruce Boudreau spoke a bit about that off night with the media after yesterday's optional practice.
"We alluded to that this morning in the meeting," he said. "You can see it creeping it and we have made mention of it. We played so, so good until the Ottawa game. Then, I thought we played average at best in the Colorado game, but won. Then, we lost in Dallas. We played okay, but didn’t play at the level we had. We had the break and then played against Phoenix. I thought our first period was substandard. We won, but we played okay. Then, we had last night. We have to rectify that. We haven’t let it slide without noticing. It’s time to get back up to the top."
The Ducks have improved their position since that January 8 vs. Columbus, which they entered just one point in front of last-place Blue Jackets. In that game, Jonas Hiller
left in the first period with an injury, Iiro Tarkki
came in and earned his first NHL win and Corey Perry
threw in a hat trick as the Ducks won a second straight game for the first time since mid-October.
A fully healthy Hiller will be back in there tonight and the Jackets will have to decide between Wednesday night's starter Curtis Sanford (three straight wins vs. Anaheim and a 2.34 GAA) or Steve Mason (3-1-0 with a 3.64 GAA in five career starts at Honda Center, despite being pulled in the last game there).
For the Ducks, Perry and his linemates need to get things going, as none of the RPG line has registered a point in the last three contests. In typical (and likeable) Boudreau fashion, he made a timely other-sport reference in talking about getting those guys going.
"You’re not going to win unless your best players are your best players," he said. "That is the simple fact on any team in any organization. If Eli Manning stinks the place up this week, I don’t care how good the Giants defense is, they’re not going to win. The same with Tom Brady. It’s the same in any sport. You look at the NBA Finals. LeBron wasn’t exactly very good and how did they do? We need our best player to be our best players."
So what do you do?
"I have to believe you challenge them a little bit," he said. "I brought a few of them in today and said 'We need you to better.' We aren’t going to win unless they are better. It’s great to have a lot of our role players playing great, but the great players have to be the great players. Everybody sees it. It’s not just out there that we’re winning and getting by. No matter who you are, if you’re best players aren’t your best players, you’re not successful. They can work really hard and do all the right things, but they have to start producing."
Boudreau confirmed this morning that Jason Blake
will be in the lineup after recovering from his foot injury and that Devante Smith-Pelly
(broken foot suffered at the World Juniors) could return next week.
Minnesota beat Colorado 1-0 last night, so the Ducks enter tonight's game 12 points behind the Wild for the eighth spot.