Stop 5 on the Ducks' 15-day tour of the midwest and east lands in New Jersey, where for the second straight game, Anaheim faces another foe that is firmly in playoff position in the East.
The Devils have won six of their last eight -- but two of those losses came last week at Prudential Center -- and are locked into the sixth spot in the conference. They're coming off a resounding 4-1 win in Buffalo in which Ilya Kovalchuk had the first New Jersey hat trick since April of last year. It's just the continuation of a hot streak for Kovalchuk, who has 13 goals and 26 points in his last 17 games. Meanwhile, captain Zach Parise has 10 points in his last nine games.
"Kovalchuk is feeling it right now and Parise is feeling it," said Bruce Boudreau this morning. "They're coming to play. They have so much more firepower than they've had in recent years. They can score."
The Ducks have their own hot player, as Jonas Hiller
comes into this one having gone 12-2-3 in his last 18 games, with a 1.76 goals-against average and a .929 save percentage. He has allowed two goals or fewer in 14 of his last 17 starts, and will be back in there tonight against Martin Brodeur for New Jersey.
There are similarities between what the Ducks are doing this season under Boudreau and what the Devils did last season when they got off to a rough start and turned things around when Jacques Lemaire was hired in late December. (However, they fell short of the playoffs, the first time they missed the postseason in 14 years.)
Ducks winger Rod Pelley
was on that Devils team, and said in this story on NHL.com,
"It's pretty amazing how similar these turnarounds have been. I thought about it a few different times. It's a can't-afford-to-lose-many-games type of thing. We've been talking about the similarities in coaching styles between Bruce and Jacques, and wondering if they ever talked about it because they're pretty similar in how they approached it. It's pretty cool to see that two different coaches can get their groups to buy into a turnaround like this."
If things go according to the skate this morning, Jason Blake
will again be on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf
and Corey Perry
, while Bobby Ryan
will skate with the two Finns. Here's the lineup from this morning (which doesn't include the newly activated Devante Smith-Pelly
Anaheim can only hope to have the same success tonight as they've had so far on this make-or-break trip, in which they've gone 3-0-1 so far. Boudreau was talking yesterday about the demands of this lengthy, 7,700-mile expedition, something he rarely had to endure during his days in the Eastern Conference.
“For a guy that’s played in the East or coached in the East as well, I don’t know how they do it,” he told the OCR. ”I really don’t. It’s quite a testament to every team in the West’s character for not griping as much as I’m doing right now about it.
“When you have a four-game road trip in seven days, you’re coming home exhausted. We’re at seven days right now and this is just the halfway point in our trip.”
Boudreau said there are times "you don't even know what hotel room you're getting into," and joked, "I haven’t been on a vacation for 15 days. The East has no idea how lucky they are. And I think every team in the West should start with 10 points before the season starts."
Like a lot of the games on this trip, the puck drops for this one at 4 p.m. Pacific, so you might want to start your fake coughing and sneezing now to get out of the office a little early.
One last thing: After scoring at Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh the other night, Teemu Selanne
has now scored in 53 different NHL arenas. The only two he hasn't scored in? MTS Center in Winnipeg and ... Prudential Center.