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Preview: Ducks Open Back-to-Back Tonight vs. Buffalo

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The Ducks (37-23-10, 84 points) wrap up a three-game homestand against the Buffalo Sabres (28-31-12, 68 points) tonight at Honda Center (7 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). The Ducks have gone 4-1-0 in their last five games and 5-2-0 dating to the end of their bye week on March 3. Anaheim is also 6-1-0 in its last seven home contests and has posted a 13-4-1 record at Honda Center since January 1, which ranks second among NHL teams in home standings points (27) and wins. The club currently ranks third in the league in PK% (85.1%), seventh in fewest goals allowed (173) and sixth in goals against per game (2.47).

The Ducks have 12 games remaining on their regular season schedule, including seven at home and five on the road. Tonight begins Anaheim's 13th set of back-to-back games that will conclude tomorrow in San Jose (7:30 p.m. PT). Anaheim is 9-8-7 in back-to-backs this season, including a 6-3-3 mark in the opening contest. Upcoming milestones include Ryan Getzlaf one point shy of 800 career NHL points and Nick Ritchie one appearance shy of 100 career NHL games.

Anaheim and Buffalo will put the finishing touches on a two-game season series this evening which began with a 5-2 Ducks victory on February 9 at KeyBank Center. That night, Corey Perry delivered a game-high three points (2g/1a) along with a season-high +3 rating to lead the Ducks to victory. Additional goal scorers for Anaheim included Antoine Vermette, Andrew Cogliano and Rickard Rakell, who scored his 22nd of the season and tied his career high with a +3 rating. Among the seven Ducks that earned assists was rookie Brandon Montour, who recorded his first career NHL assist on Vermette's third-period tally. John Gibson tied a single-season career high with his 21st win of the season after stopping 22-of-24 shots. The Ducks have posted a 14-15-4 all-time record against the Sabres, including an 8-8-0 mark in Orange County. Vermette paces current Ducks skaters in career scoring against the Sabres with 20 points (9g/11a) in 43 career games.

It's been over two months since the Ducks last strung together three consecutive wins (January 10-14), but they can tie their season high tonight with a victory over the struggling Sabres, who enter the game with two wins in their last 10 games (2-6-2). They were shutout last night, 2-0, at STAPLES Center against the LA Kings, and currently sit 10 points out of the second wild card spot. This is the finale of a three-game California swing, which began with a 4-1 loss in San Jose on Tuesday. The Sabres have been outscored 6-1 over their last two games and have an 11-19-6 record away from home.

While the Sabres are firmly on the outside looking in, the Ducks are jostling for position in the seemingly ever-changing Pacific Division standings. Though the Sharks hold a seven-point edge on Anaheim, two points separate second place through fourth place/first wild card. Anaheim enters tonight's game with a one-point lead on third-place Edmonton and two up on Calgary, with all three teams at 70 games played. The Ducks will face the Oilers and Flames twice more before the season comes to a close.

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