With an important set of back to backs on the docket, the Ducks aren't looking ahead to tomorrow's game just yet - nor should they. Before they embark for the Bay Area tonight, they'll host the visiting Buffalo Sabres in the finale of a three-game homestand that has produced victories in the first two.
The Ducks are playing arguably their best hockey - or most consistent brand of hockey - all season, and it's coming at the right time. They enter tonight's game in second place in the tightly contested Pacific Division, one point ahead of third-place Edmonton and two up on the Calgary Flames. And don't look now, but a win tonight and a regulation win tomorrow (in San Jose) would put the Ducks only three points behind the Sharks for the top spot in the division.
"The most important game of the year is the game tonight," said head coach Randy Carlyle. "We're not going to focus on anything other than that. Our mandate is to not get too far ahead of ourselves. We know there are only a certain number of points available. Some of the teams we're going to be competing against for those positions are teams we're going to play. We'll deal with that when the time comes."
Jonathan Bernier will go for his fourth consecutive victory in as many starts tonight against the Sabres. Bernier has allowed two goals or less in his last three starts and has earned wins in six of his last eight. The 28-year-old netminder comes into the game with a 14-7-2 record, 2.62 goals-against average and .913 save percentage.
Robin Lehner was in goal for Buffalo's 2-0 loss last night against the LA Kings - the club's eighth defeat over the last 10 games (2-6-2) - so the Sabres might roll with backup Anders Nilsson tonight.
Lehner didn't mince words in his postgame interview on the club's official website. "We [didn't] go out and deserve it," he said. "You can't wait for them to score the first goal and then wake up. It's not how the game is played. They're a big, solid, good team. They're going to shut you down. This is a business. You have to come out and play...otherwise you get replaced. It doesn't matter if we're in or out right now. Everyone needs to be playing for their job."
If line rushes from the morning skate hold, expect to see rookie defenseman Brandon Montour draw into the lineup in place of Korbinian Holzer. Montour was a healthy scratch in Anaheim's 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday night and skated alongside veteran Kevin Bieksa today. Anaheim's forward line combinations remained unchanged.
Potential Line Combinations
Video: The Ducks preview the matchup with Buffalo