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Preview: Division-Leading Ducks Host Rangers Tonight

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The Ducks (40-23-11, 91 points) conclude a three-game homestand tonight vs. the New York Rangers (46-25-4, 96 points) at Honda Center (6 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). The Ducks have recorded their fourth consecutive 40+ win season, tying a franchise record originally established from 2005-06 to 2008-09. Anaheim is one of four NHL teams with 40-or-more wins in each of the last four seasons, including the Chicago Blackhawks, Rangers and the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Ducks have won three straight games, are 6-1-1 in their last eight and 8-2-1 dating to the end of their bye week on March 3. Anaheim is also 7-1-1 in its last nine home contests and has posted a 15-4-2 record at Honda Center since January 1, which ranks second among NHL teams in home standings points (32) and wins. The club currently ranks fifth in the league in PK% (84.6%), fourth in goals against per game (2.42) and tied for fourth in fewest goals allowed (179) this season.

The Ducks have eight games remaining on their regular season schedule, evenly split between four at home and four on the road. Following tonight's game, the Ducks embark on their final road trip of the regular season, a four-game trek that makes stops in Vancouver on Tuesday (7 p.m. PT), Winnipeg on Thursday (5 p.m. PT), Edmonton on Saturday, April 1 (7 p.m. PT) and Calgary on Sunday, April 2 (6:30 p.m. PT).

The Ducks and Rangers put the final touches on their two-game season series, which began with a 4-1 victory for New York at Madison Square Garden on February 2. That night the Ducks recorded a season-high 44 shots on net, including 16 in both the first and second periods. Jakob Silfverberg scored Anaheim's lone goal of the game, assisted by Andrew Cogliano. The Ducks have posted a 16-10-6 record all time vs. the Rangers, including an 8-4-2 mark in Orange County. Corey Perry owns 14 points (8g/6a) in 15 career games vs. the Rangers, tops among active Ducks skaters.

With one less game played than the San Jose Sharks (and Edmonton Oilers), the Ducks find themselves atop the Pacific Division in a three-way tie for first place. The Sharks lost their sixth consecutive game last night (7-2 loss at Nashville), their 75th game of the season, while the Oilers skated to a 4-1 win over the Colorado Avalanche. A win tonight for Anaheim would also give the club its first four-game winning streak of the season. The Ducks have won three consecutive games on five separate occasions this season, including their current streak. Jonathan Bernier is expected to get the start for Anaheim. Since March 3, Bernier has gone 8-1-1 with one shutout, a 1.58 GAA and .948 SV% in 10 starts. Since that date, Bernier co-leads NHL goaltenders in wins and ranks fourth in SV% (min. 5 starts) and GAA (min. 5 starts).

The Rangers, meanwhile, enter tonight's game firmly locked in the first wild card. Currently sitting in fourth place in the Metropolitan Division seven points behind third-place Pittsburgh, the Rangers will likely face the Atlantic Division-leading Montreal Canadiens with home ice belonging to the Habs despite having fewer overall points. Tonight's game represents the halfway point of a three-game California road trip that started with a 3-0 victory last night in LA. The Rangers, who can clinch a playoff spot with a win of any kind tonight, will conclude their trip on Tuesday at San Jose. For what it's worth, the Rangers have posted a 21-5-0 record against Western Conference opponents this season, including an 11-1-0 mark against the Pacific Division. Henrik Lundqvist, who has missed nearly three weeks with a strained hip, will make his first start since March 7. Lundqvist enters tonight's game with a 30-17-2 record overall, and has gone 12-5-1 with a 2.26 GAA, .930 SV% and one shutout in his last 19 appearances.

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