This stretch -- in which the Ducks play 11 of the next 13 at Honda Center, only leaving town to go to LA and Phoenix -- comes in the wake of a road trip that Bobby Ryan
called "an absolute nightmare." It comes to a team that has lost eight of its last nine, went down 5-0 in Detroit in its previous game and is last in the NHL in goals scored at 1.86
The Ducks have also played the fewest home games in the league this season with just four (that "home game" in Stockholm vs. the Rangers doesn't count), making this homestand a welcome respite. And you could hardly find a more intriguing matchup to launch it than the Nashville Predators.
The Preds, who ruined the Ducks' postseason last spring by eliminating them in six games of the first round, also contributed to making that Ducks trip so miserable. And it is that combination, in addition to some other factors, that has suddenly made Anaheim-Nashville an unexpectedly bitter rivalry.
Nashville dominated Anaheim 3-0 last October 29 at Bridgestone Arena, a game that got the Ducks' ire up for more than just a disappointing performance that kickstarted their five-game skid. Ryan Getzlaf
was vociferous in his displeasure with Nashville pest Jordin Tootoo and his alleged diving, as quoted by Eric Stephens of the OC Register
It will be interesting to see the interplay between Tootoo and guys like Getzlaf and Corey Perry
, who was called for one of the slashes that Getzlaf referred to
. Tootoo told The Tennessean newspaper today, "For me personally I know I'm doing my job, and I'm definitely going to bring that tonight."
The Ducks, meanwhile, have tried to downplay any animosity leading up to this game. “Honestly, it doesn’t matter right now,” said Teemu Selanne
. “The main focus has to be (on us). We have to do our things right and get ourselves where we should be.”
David Legwand, the Predators' leading scorer with 14 points in 14 games, won't be in the lineup tonight as he recovers from what is being called an upper body injury. “I don’t think we have a lot of guys who are 18- to 20-minute guys who you can say, ‘go ahead and do it,’ ” said Nashville coach Barry Trotz about filling in for Legwand's absence. “It could be two or three guys picking up five or six minutes each.”
Nashville will have Pekka Rinne, who was tough on the Ducks last postseason and in that October 29 game, between the proverbial pipes tonight. Rinne gave way to backup Anders Lindback last night in LA, as the Predators were edged 4-3 in the first of a back-to-back. That win also snapped a five-game losing streak for the struggling Kings (the term misery loves company
certainly has rung true for Ducks fans looking up the freeway at their rivals).
But as Selanne has said, it matters little what other teams are doing. Right now the Ducks' focus is on themselves, and there is no better time than during this friendly stretch of games. "I always believe that before the big success you have to go through some tough times," Selanne said. "Your team has to heal together, and I really believe this is one of those times.
"We have a really important home stretch coming up, so this is the time to take advantage of that and start really enjoying this game. This is the time. I'm really looking forward to playing well for the next month or so and turning this ship around."
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By the way, if you're at Honda Center tonight or Friday night vs. Vancouver, you'll notice a giant tent taking up a good portion of the parking lot on the northeast side of the arena. The tent, to answer some of your questions, is for the big UFC event being hosted at Honda Center
on Saturday and aired on Fox.
Speaking of UFC, Dominick Cruz (they tell me he's a big-time fighter) will be at tonight's game signing autographs during the second intermission.