|Hard to believe, but tonight and Sunday and that's it at Honda Center this season.
The Ducks have all but their heels left hanging on the metaphoric cliff of official playoff elimination, but that hardly dampens their motivation to take down the Sharks tonight at Honda Center.
There is the matter of a fierce rivalry with their in-state foes, and an opportunity to make a serious statement with a fifth win in six games. But there is also the opportunity to do some damage to San Jose's playoff hopes for the second time in nine days.
The Sharks have won three straight after a 5-3 defeat at home to the Ducks a week ago Monday, putting them on top of the Pacific Division -- for now. They're just a point in front of Dallas and Phoenix and two in front of the Kings (the Stars and Kings each tonight). If the Ducks down the Sharks tonight, they could not only lose their lead in the division, but they could tumble as far down the standings as seventh in the West.
And even further motivation comes from the fact that ... well ... our guys simply don't like their guys.
"We like visiting that city," Bruce Boudreau said a day after that satisfying win in San Jose last week. "We hate them
, but we like visiting that city."
Asked about the "hate" factor yesterday, the soft-spoken Cam Fowler
said, "It's a strong word, but we definitely dislike them. Not to say we don't have respect for them because they're a great team. But the Kings and the Sharks and the Ducks, I think, all have a strong hate for each other. That's just how it is."Luca Sbisa
told the OC Register, "Just as much as we hate the Kings, we hate the Sharks. They're always good, right? They're always up there, and we don't really like that, either. You want to give it to them as much as possible, and I think they want to do the same thing."
Again, the Ducks could be officially closed out from the postseason in the middle of the game tonight, as both LA-Calgary and Dallas-Edmonton drop the puck a half hour before Anaheim-San Jose does. But whatever happens on the NHL scoreboard, that won't influence the Ducks' approach tonight or in any of the last six games.
"We have an obligation to every team in our conference to play the best we can and put the best lineup out every night," Boudreau said this morning. "We're looking to win. We're not looking to get into the lottery, we want to be as good a team as we can the rest of the season."