By Kyle Shohara
Morning Skate Photos
What began way back on December 28 is now coming to an end, as tonight marks the finale of Anaheim’s marathon eight-game homestand. The Ducks have gone 5-2-0 in the first seven games of this season-long stay at Honda Center, and tonight they face a New Jersey Devils squad that scored three goals during a 68-second span in a 5-3 victory over the LA Kings at Staples Center two nights ago.
The Ducks are coming off one of their most complete games of the season against a team they hadn’t defeated in regulation at home since Jan. 9, 2008. Corey Perry led the charge offensively with his eighth-career hat trick and league-leading third this season alone, matching Paul Kariya for the second-most hat tricks in club history and Teemu Selanne for the franchise record in a single season. Frederik Andersen won his 44th NHL game in 60 career NHL decisions (44-11-5), marking the best start by an NHL goaltender since Montreal's Bill Durnan earned his NHL-record 44th win in 58 decisions in November 1944. Andersen, who currently ranks second in the NHL in wins with a career-best 24, stopped all 28 shots for his second career shutout.
As one of the league’s most dominant teams on home ice, the Ducks (16-5-3 overall at Honda Center, including a 9-2-0 mark over their past 11) will look to set the tone early against a team still looking for consistency away from home. The Devils enter tonight’s action with a 9-14-2 road record overall with just three wins in their past 13 away from Prudential Center, but they broke out in a big way against the defending champs.
The Ducks will look to replicate their effort from Wednesday night by setting the tone against the Devils. “We got on top of [Toronto] early and that momentum carried us through the game,” said Kyle Palmieri. “It was nice to go into the third period with a lead.”
And as always, the Ducks will focus on playing their own game. “It’s more about what we’re going to do,” said Andrew Cogliano. “If we play the same game as we did the last game, and that’s having each line going, having our D working together and getting good goaltending, we’ll have a good game. It’s big for us to close this homestand on the right note and go into LA for a big game.”
BRYZ IN NET
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau confirmed earlier today that Ilya Bryzgalov will start tonight. The 34-year-old last saw game action on Jan. 7 vs. the New York Rangers, stopping 26 of 29 shots in a 4-1 loss at Honda Center.
“Usually you come back with the goaltender who just had the shutout, but this was something that we had planned,” said Boudreau. “We want him to play, and we need him to play well. It’s not a matter of the All-Star break being around the corner, because come February and March, we’re playing every second day for two straight months.”
Though he’s winless in three appearances (two starts), Bryzgalov had his best performance in that game against New York.
“We just want Bryz to play the way he’s capable of playing,” said Boudreau. “We know he’s a really good goalie. I’ve seen him play for years. It’s tough when you come halfway through the year and you’re spotted every fourth or fifth game. It’s not an easy thing, but we’ve had good practices.”
The Ducks have had the opportunity to get practices in because of their eight-game homestand and a portion of the schedule that has allowed them to remain in Southern California for 36 of 37 days (beginning Dec. 20 through Jan. 25).
“Now that we’ve had good practices, I think he’s ready,” said Boudreau. “I think he’ll play great.”
That’s the nickname given to Palmieri from teammate Ben Lovejoy, who says the New Jersey native’s knack for scoring against Metropolitan Division teams deserves recognition.
“He attacks these mid-Atlantic teams,” said Lovejoy. “He’s had the games of his life against Philly, New Jersey and the Rangers. He had a big game in Philly.”
Though the nickname has a nice ring to it, Lovejoy admits it’s one that hasn’t gained traction inside the Ducks locker room. “I’ve really tried to push it,” he said. “Hopefully he has another big game.”