By Kyle Shohara
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The road trip is in its final day as the Ducks take on the Washington Capitals tonight at Verizon Center (4 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket, AM 830).
If entering the Christmas break on a winning note isn’t incentive enough for the NHL-leading Ducks (winners of a franchise-best eight consecutive games), tonight marks the first return to Washington for head coach Bruce Boudreau, who spent four years as the bench boss of the Capitals (2007-11). Boudreau won the 2007-08 Jack Adams award and led his club to the 2009-10 Presidents’ Trophy. He compiled a 201-88-40 record (.672) and won the Southeast Division four times.
After the morning skate, Boudreau caught up with familiar faces from his time in Washington, and said a lot of emotions are going through him leading up to tonight’s game.
“I’m trying to be as business-like as possible,” said Boudreau. “But there are a lot of great memories in this building.”
Boudreau also talked about the bond he had with Capitals and Hershey [American Hockey League] players. “I thought they were really good relationships. They were great guys. For a lot of them, just watching tapes of them, thinking we’ve played in Hershey together, we’ve won championships together. When you win a championship, no matter where you are, you always have a special bond with that group. That’ll be with me forever. At the end of the season, I’ll see a couple of them, but right now I won’t even look over at them tonight. Not once. I’ll be too afraid [laughs].
“If you like somebody, you want them to do good,” he said. “But I don’t want them to do good tonight. But you want them to succeed and you want good things to happen to good people. It’s just natural.”
When asked if he holds any lingering bitterness regarding his dismissal in Washington, Boudreau simply said he’s grateful for the opportunity the Capitals gave him.
“I don’t know if bitterness is the right word,” he said. “I’ve never used that word, I don’t think. I was grateful for them and what they gave me. No one would’ve ever hired me after 30 years in the minors, unless it was [Capitals General Manager] George McPhee and [Chairman and Majority Owner] Ted Leonsis. They took a chance on me. So even though you got let go, I was grateful for the opportunity because I got a job basically a day later.”
There will be another former Capital playing against his former team tonight. Mathieu Perreault was acquired from the Caps on Sept. 29 for left wing John Mitchell and a fourth-round selection in the 2014 NHL Entry Draft.
Perreault made an immediate impact with the Ducks and has been one of the key reasons why the Ducks are atop the NHL standings.
“It’s a little exciting, but I don’t know what to expect,” he said. “It’s going to be weird being on the other side of the ice. It’s a fun building to play in. It’s going to be exciting.”
Selected by Washington in the sixth round (177th overall) of the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, Perreault made his NHL debut in 2009-10 under Boudreau. He set several career highs in 2011-12, including goals (16), assists (14), points (30), plus/minus (+9) and games played (64).
Perreault said getting traded to the Ducks gave him a fresh start and a new opportunity to play under a familiar coach.
“I have the chance to play on the power play, on the top-two lines, and get some big minutes,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity for me. It’s been really good. And it makes it so much easier coming in knowing the coaching staff. Bruce knew where to put me, and he knew what kind of player I was.”
TOP OF THE LEAGUE
The Ducks enter tonight’s game with a league-best 57 points (26-7-5, .750 win (points) percentage). The club established a new franchise record for consecutive wins at eight with a 5-3 victory over the Islanders on Saturday night, marking the longest streak in the NHL this season and the longest since Washington won eight straight from Apr. 2-16, 2013. There have been three win streaks in the NHL this season of seven games or more - twice by Anaheim (8 and 7) and once by Vancouver (7). The club also owns the longest active road winning streak (5) and longest active home standings point streak (15).
FREQUENT FLYER MILES
Anaheim has played a league-leading 23 road contests this season and is riding a current five-game road winning streak entering tonight’s contest at Verizon Center. Anaheim’s five-game winning streak represents the longest active streak in the NHL and the club's longest since Jan. 22-Feb. 13, 2011 (six games). The club record is seven games, set Nov. 28-Dec. 13, 2006. The Ducks have also earned points in six straight away from home (5-0-1), their second such six-game streak this season (also Oct. 25-Nov. 4).
With a 13-7-3 road record, Anaheim leads the NHL in road points (29), and at 66 goals, the Ducks have scored the second-most goals through 23 road games in club history (2006-07, 70). Including tonight, Anaheim has completed 59% of its road schedule and has completed travel to the Eastern Time Zone for the season. In addition, the Ducks have only four games in the Central Time Zone (Jan. 9 at NSH, Jan. 17 at CHI, Jan. 18 at STL, Feb. 8 at NSH) of the 18 remaining on the road schedule.
Anaheim and Washington meet for the first time since Nov. 1, 2011(5-4 ANA OTL at Verizon Center). All-time, Anaheim owns a 13-9-3 record vs. Washington. Teemu Selanne leads the team with 39 career points (21g/18a) in 24 games against the Capitals. Coincidentally, heading into tonight's game, Washington Capitals superstar Alex Ovechkin is the first player to score 30 goals before Christmas since Selanne (with the Ducks) in 1997 (stat courtesy of ESPN).