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Preview: Ducks Conclude Back-to-Back at Home vs. Pens

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The Ducks (4-4-2, 10 pts.) open a three-game homestand, the club's longest to date this season, against the Pittsburgh Penguins (6-2-1, 13 pts.) tonight at Honda Center (7:30 p.m. PDT, Fox Sports West/AM 830). Anaheim has earned standings points in five of the past six games (4-1-1, 9 pts.) and six of the past eight (4-2-2, 10 pts.) since October 16. The Ducks are in the midst of 13 consecutive days spent in Southern California (five home games and last night's contest in LA).

Tonight concludes the club's third set of back-to-back games in 2016-17. The Ducks are 2-1-2 in back-to-backs this season after going 14-5-3 in such contests last year. In total, the Ducks will play 14 sets of back-to-back games in 2016-17, an increase of three from the previous season. Following tonight's game, the Ducks will also host the Arizona Coyotes on Friday (7 p.m. PDT) and Calgary Flames on Sunday as part of the current homestand.

This game will conclude the season series between the Ducks and Penguins, marking the Ducks' earliest season series finale of 2016-17. The Ducks own an 11-17-3 all-time record vs. the Penguins along with an 8-5-1 mark in Anaheim. These two clubs first met on October 15 at PPG Paints Arena, a 3-2 Pittsburgh victory. That night, Ryan Getzlaf led all skaters in scoring with two points (both assists) and Jonathan Bernier made 42 saves in his Anaheim debut. Corey Perry and Cam Fowler both earned their first goals of the season with Fowler's marker also representing Anaheim's first PPG of 2016-17. Antoine Vermette (9g/8a=17 in 28 games) and Corey Perry (13g/4a=17 in 14 games) enter tonight's game co-leading active Ducks skaters in career scoring against Pittsburgh.

The Ducks are coming off a dominant 4-0 victory last night against the LA Kings at STAPLES Center that featured a triumphant return from Rickard Rakell. The 23-year-old Swede had a goal and finished with a game-high three points in his season debut. John Gibson recorded his seventh career shutout, which also happened to be the third consecutive shutout loss for the Kings. Vermette also scored his first goal as a Duck, a power-play strike in a three-goal second period.

The Penguins, meanwhile, had the luxury of watching the game from the comforts of their local hotel room. They haven't played since Saturday - a 5-4 victory over the in-state rival Philadelphia Flyers at Wells Fargo Center. Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had two goals apiece in the victory, which happened to be the club's first road win of the season. Crosby enters tonight's game with four goals and five points in three games this season. The 29-year-old missed the series opener between the Ducks and Penguins on October 15 at PPG Paints Arena due to concussion symptoms. Goaltender Matt Murray will make his season debut for the Penguins, as confirmed by head coach Mike Sullivan. Murray broke his hand on September 19 in the World Cup of Hockey tournament.

Upcoming milestones include Ryan Kesler one-point shy of 500 NHL points and Fowler only one goal from surpassing Fredrik Olausson (37) for sole possession of fourth on the franchise's all-time goals list for defensemen and one power-play goal shy of tying Chris Pronger (20) for third on the franchise's all-time PPG list for defensemen. In addition, Sami Vatanen is one point from tying Ruslan Salei (105) for eighth on the franchise's all-time scoring list for defensemen.

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