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Preview: Ducks Return From Bye Week to Host Leafs

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

The Ducks (32-21-10, 74 pts.) return from their bye week to open a three-game homestand against the Toronto Maple Leafs (28-21-14, 70 pts.) tonight at Honda Center (7 p.m. PT, Fox Sports West/AM 830). The Ducks begin the month of March with 19 games remaining on their regular-season schedule, including 12 at home and seven on the road. Only the Edmonton Oilers (13) have more home games remaining among NHL teams. The club's final road schedule is broken down with two games in the Pacific Time Zone, two in the Mountain and three in the Central. From March 3-28, Anaheim will play 14 games in a 28-day stretch (nine home games and five road contests) that features two sets of back-to-back games. The club enters tonight's game tied for the league's fourth-best penalty kill at 84.9% overall. Anaheim's homestand continues with games on Sunday vs. Vancouver (5 p.m. PT) and next Tuesday vs. Nashville (7 p.m. PT).

Tonight's matchup concludes the two-game season series between the Ducks and Maple Leafs. Anaheim has posted an 11-22-6 all-time record against Toronto, including a 7-9-1 mark at Honda Center. On December 19, Anaheim earned its first win at the Air Canada Centre since Oct. 21, 2008 with a 3-2 victory over Toronto. With a game-high two points (1g/1a), Cam Fowler reached the 200-point milestone and tied Matt Cullen (200) for ninth on the franchise's all-time scoring list. Fowler's goal represented his 22nd career power-play tally to move him into a tie with Fredrik Olausson (22) for second on the franchise's all-time PPG list for defensemen. Ryan Getzlaf and Nick Ritchie also scored for Anaheim, which received single assists from Ryan Kesler, Sami Vatanen and Ondrej Kase. John Gibson earned his 11th win of the season with saves on 33 of 35 shots, while Andrew Cogliano appeared in his 737th consecutive game to match Jay Bouwmeester for the fifth-longest consecutive game streak in NHL history.

After skating yesterday evening for the first time since their game last Saturday against the LA Kings, the Ducks used the hour-long session to prepare as best they could for what lies ahead - an unforgiving stretch of games over the final five weeks of the regular season. Though they currently sit in a playoff spot (third place in the Pacific Division behind second-place Edmonton and first-place San Jose), the Ducks have been caught by the red-hot Calgary Flames, who lurk two points behind them in the first wild card spot. It'll be a dash to the finish line for the top-four teams in the division, and it's up to the Ducks to find the consistency they've been searching for all season. "With 19 games left and how teams are playing and how the standings are shaping up, mentally we have to be tough," said Cogliano. "We have to realize where we're at and start on time [tonight]." Defenseman Josh Manson adds, "Things are getting tight here. If you go to sleep for the last few games here, you're going to be in a bad spot at the end of the year."

They'll face a desperate Maple Leafs team that enters tonight's contest tied with the New York Islanders for the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference. Though tied in points, the Leafs have played one more game than the Isles and sit on the outside looking in. Last night Toronto blew a 2-0 lead and lost 3-2 in a shootout to the Kings at STAPLES Center. Tyler Bozak opened the scoring with his 15th goal of the season at the 2:04 mark of the first period and rookie Nikita Zaitsev tacked on a goal in the middle frame, but consecutive markers from Anze Kopitar and Tanner Pearson 1:30 apart in the third period forced the game to an eventual shootout. Former Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen made stops on Jeff Carter and Pearson through the first two rounds, but gave up the shootout- and game-winning goal to Kopitar in the third round. Maple Leafs rookies Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander were denied by Jonathan Quick, giving Toronto its third shootout loss in a string of four consecutive defeats.

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