A long and winding season is in its closing days for the Ducks, who reach the halfway mark of their final homestand of the season. Tonight they host the leaders of the West, the Chicago Blackhawks, who will finish the season with the most points in the conference.
The Ducks can lock up the Pacific Division with one of two scenarios tonight: a win over Chicago in any fashion AND an Edmonton loss to San Jose in any fashion, OR one standings point against the Blackhawks AND an Oilers loss to the Sharks in regulation. If the Ducks can't lock up the division tonight, they can still clinch home ice in the first round by earning one standings point against the Blackhawks OR the Sharks losing in any fashion tonight against the Oilers.
The Ducks were dealt a serious blow on Tuesday night when defenseman Cam Fowler left the game in the third period with what appeared to be a serious knee injury. The 25-year-old was the club's all-situations bedrock on defense and had not missed a game all season. Already without Hampus Lindholm and Clayton Stoner, the Ducks recalled rookie defenseman Jaycob Megna from the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League earlier today.
Megna was on the ice with his teammates and is expected to make his NHL debut tonight against the team he grew up watching. "You never take anything for granted," said Megna, chosen in the seventh round of the 2012 Draft. "You never know what is going to happen. I'm fortunate and very thankful." The 24-year-old blueliner was born in Plantation, Florida, but grew up approximately 45 minutes north of Chicago.
Standing 6-foot-6, Megna describes his role as a shutdown defenseman who plays a defense-first game. He had 27 points (5g/22a) and 37 penalty minutes in 60 games with the Gulls this season coupled with an AHL-best +33 rating.
"He has been a rock solid veteran presence for Dallas [Eakins] in San Diego," said head coach Randy Carlyle. "Through all of the recalls, he was next on the list. [Shea] Theodore and [Brandon] Montour were here ahead of him, but they are different players. He is more of a stay-at-home defenseman. Net-clearing, stay-at-home type of guy." Megna and Theodore are roommates when both are in San Diego and he usually skates alongside Montour if both are in the Gulls lineup.
"Not too many mistakes to his game," said Montour. "He keeps it simple. He's hard to play against. He's a big guy who uses his stick really well. He can skate. There won't be too many pretty plays, but he plays hard. It's good to have a guy like him come up and play his first game. We've played a lot together. He's such a good guy and friend. I'm happy for him."
The good news for the Ducks is defenseman Sami Vatanen appears ready to return to the lineup after missing the last two games with an upper-body injury.
Expect John Gibson to get the start in net for Anaheim, while the Blackhawks are likely countering with Corey Crawford.
With the top seed in the conference locked up, the Blackhawks are expected to rest some of their regulars. Among them are captain Jonathan Toews and veteran Marian Hossa up front (based off reports from their skate this morning), and possibly both Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook on defense. Keith took the night off on Tuesday at Colorado and Niklas Hjalmarsson is in Chicago for the birth of his child.
Potential Line Combinations