Could tomorrow's game against the Edmonton Oilers be a foreshadowing of what is to come when the Stanley Cup Playoffs begin next month? With the ever-changing Pacific Division standings, it is entirely possible. The Ducks and Oilers are gridlocked at the moment, tied for second place in the division with 10 games remaining for either side. As of now, the Oilers hold the tiebreaker and would host Games 1 and 2 if the playoffs started today.
Ducks forward Rickard Rakell said the team's 2-1 victory in San Jose on Saturday night was a statement, a message sent to the division leaders that they could win in their building even on the second half of back to backs. Tomorrow, Rakell says, will be another chance to send a message.
"Most of the games we have left are divisional games, and we not only want to make our team ready for the next step, but we also want to make a statement to the other teams we're playing," said Rakell. "We have to treat it like a playoff game."
The Ducks are nearing their fifth consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They haven't punched their ticket to the big dance just yet, but with the postseason on the horizon, Rakell says facing a team like Edmonton in the first round could be a good thing.
"That's the kind of team you want to play to get into it right away," said Rakell, who referenced Anaheim's first round series against the Winnipeg Jets from two years ago. "Thinking about it, that series could've gone either way. Every game was so close. [The Ducks won the series, 4-0]. We just want to get in right now and get a good feeling about this team."
Former Oilers forward (and draft pick) Andrew Cogliano says tomorrow's matchup comes at a good time with both teams playing well. The Oilers are coming off a 2-0 victory over the LA Kings last night, with captain Connor McDavid assisting on both goals. With his two-point performance, McDavid moved back into first place in the Art Ross Trophy race (82 points, 25g/57a). Goaltender Cam Talbot recorded his second straight shutout in the win, Edmonton's fourth victory in a row.
"They're not sneaking up on anyone," said Cogliano, who is set to take over sole possession of fourth place on the NHL's all-time consecutive games played list tomorrow night. "They're one of the best teams in the league. They have the best player - or highest scorer - in the league. We need to be ready to play one of the best teams we're going to face all year. You're going to need your best game because they're as good as anyone."
John Gibson did not practice with the team this morning as he continues to recover from a lower-body injury. Gibson missed six consecutive games from February 22-March 9, returned to the lineup on March 10 at St. Louis, and has since missed the last four. Clayton Stoner continues to make progress after undergoing abdominal surgery on December 21. The veteran defenseman hasn't played since November 15, and has been limited to 14 games this season, but took part in the full practice today. Head coach Randy Carlyle says the next step would likely involve Stoner getting playing time with the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League, but a schedule has not yet been made.