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Preview: Ducks Begin Six-Game Trip Tonight in Florida

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The Ducks (28-15-9, 65 points) begin a season-long 14-day, six-game road trip tonight against the Florida Panthers (22-19-10, 54 points) at BB&T Center (4:30 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). Anaheim has posted an 11-3-3 record since Christmas, tied for second among league leaders in standings points (25 points) and tied for third in wins. In addition, Anaheim (31) has allowed the second-fewest goals in the league since Christmas. On the penalty kill, the Ducks are 53-for-58 for a 91.4% that leads the league since December 25, 4.7% higher than second-place Ottawa (86.7%).

Anaheim has held opponents to two goals or less in 11 of the last 13 games (21 GA total), held teams without a power-play goal in nine of the last 10 games, and scored a PPG in five of the last six contests. Tonight's contest also begins Anaheim's 10th set of back-to-back games this season. The Ducks are 7-5-6 in back-to-backs, including a 4-2-3 mark in the opener. The current road trip, which will see the Ducks travel over 8,600 miles, also includes stops in Tampa Bay (tomorrow, 4 p.m. PT), New York Rangers (Tuesday, February 7, 4 p.m. PT), Buffalo (Thursday, February 9, 4 p.m. PT), Washington (Saturday, February 11, 4:30 p.m. PT) and Minnesota (Tuesday, February 14, 5 p.m. PT).

The Ducks concluded the month of January with a 10-3-1 record, marking their first double-digit win month since February 2016 (12-1-1). Anaheim has reached 10 wins or more in January twice in club history (also in 2014, 11-3-0). John Gibson led all NHL goaltenders (minimum five starts) in goals-against average (1.59) and save percentage (.946), ranked fourth in wins (7) and tied for second in shutouts (2). Ryan Kesler (8 points, 6g/2a) and Ryan Getzlaf (8 points, 2g/6a) co-led Anaheim in January scoring. Kesler also paced the team with six goals while Getzlaf led the way with six assists.

Tonight's contest opens a two-game season series between the Ducks and Panthers, the first meeting between these two teams since Nov. 19, 2015 (3-1 Anaheim win). The Ducks have won the last two games and are 8-4-0 against the Panthers since 2005-06. On the road, Anaheim has posted a 6-5-3 record, including the aforementioned 3-1 win on Nov. 19, 2015. Among active Anaheim skaters, Antoine Vermette leads the way with 17 points (10g/7a) in 27 career games vs. Florida. The Ducks and Panthers will meet again in two weeks to conclude the season set on Friday, February 17 at Honda Center (7 p.m. PT).

The Ducks will face a much stiffer test tonight than they did on Tuesday when they dominated the last-place Colorado Avalanche in the second and third periods of an eventual 5-1 victory at Honda Center. Panthers President of Hockey Operations Dale Tallon announced this morning that forwards Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau have been cleared to play tonight.

Barkov, 21, has 27 points (9g/18a) in 36 games with the Panthers this season and led the team in scoring in November and December, but missed the last 15 games due to injury. Tonight would mark the season debut for 23-year-old Huberdeau, who missed 51 games with an Achilles injury suffered during the preseason. It's good timing for the Panthers, who enter tonight's game only four points out of both the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference and third place in the Atlantic Division.

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