For the fourth time on this five-game road trip, the Ducks will bear witness to another team's home opener, and this time they hope to finally ruin the party. It's been a winless road trip thus far, the Ducks with nothing more to show than a point courtesy of a 3-2 overtime loss to the New York Islanders last Sunday. Their trip began in Dallas (4-2 L), continued in Pittsburgh (3-2 L), went on to the Islanders and most recently made a stop in New Jersey, where the Ducks fell by a 2-1 final.
And it's not like the Ducks are getting blown out, either. Aside from the season opener, each game has been decided by a single goal, though the score doesn't always define the game.
A lack of discipline and goal scoring are two of the main reasons why the Ducks are still pining for their first victory of the young season. Entering tonight's game, the Ducks have committed 20 penalties through four games and have been shorthanded 18 times - one less than the league-leading Calgary Flames. At one point during their game against the Devils, the Ducks committed six consecutive penalties and, sure enough, both of New Jersey's goals were scored on the power play.
Seven goals over four games doesn't make things any easier, but tonight is another opportunity to rectify the troubles that have clouded their start to the 2016-17 season.
"Frustration comes with this job at times," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "I'm sure our players are frustrated with the amount of effort they've put in. We haven't played poorly, but we haven't played a full 60 minutes. That's what we're striving for. We've played 25 minutes, 35 minutes, 40 minutes, and then we've had stretches where we let the game get away from us. We have to eliminate those and build on the positives."
John Gibson will again get the call in net for the Ducks. He's been rock solid in his past two outings, turning aside 53-of-58 shots combined.
Carlyle confirmed the Ritchie-Getzlaf-Perry and Cogliano-Kesler-Silfverberg lines will remain intact in hopes of sparking offense. "We've made a decision to stick with the top-two lines that have been together before," said Carlyle. "We want to go with some consistency to get them going offensively." The third line, he says, will be composed of Ryan Garbutt, Antoine Vermette and Nick Sorensen, which means the fourth line will be Chris Wagner with any two of Jared Boll, Emerson Etem and Mason Raymond. It's worth mentioning that 19-year-old rookie blueliner Jacob Larsson stayed out on the ice with Raymond, so there's a chance both of them get scratched.
"There are a bunch of factors that go into the decision-making process," said Carlyle. "We do that on a day-to-day basis, specifically with our young players. We want to protect them and make sure they're trending up, not declining."
For what it's worth, Anaheim has won a club-record six straight over the Flyers to improve its record to 15-8-7 in the all-time season series. Furthermore, the Ducks have not lost to Philadelphia in regulation since the 2007-08 campaign, going 9-0-2 in the process. The Ducks have also won five in a row in Philadelphia dating to Oct. 10, 2009, another franchise first.
Keep an eye on Claude Giroux and rookie Travis Konecny, who both have four points (all assists) through three games, as well as Matt Read and Sean Couturier, who pace the club with three goals apiece. Despite a shaky performance in Philadelphia's 7-4 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks two nights ago, rookie defenseman Ivan Provorov is likely to become a fixture on the Flyers' blueline for many years to come. The former seventh overall pick of the 2015 NHL Draft is a great skater and has no problem joining the rush, and last year led all WHL defensemen in scoring with 21 goals and 73 points in 62 games with the Brandon Wheat Kings.
Former fifth-overall pick Brayden Schenn is expected to make his season debut tonight after serving a three-game suspension for charging Washington Capitals forward T.J. Oshie during Game 6 of the Flyers-Capitals First Round series on April 24.
POTENTIAL LINE COMBINATIONS