With the holiday break coming to an end, fans young and old will get to see their Ducks play host to the Vancouver Canucks tonight before school and work resumes tomorrow.
They should be in for a treat, as the Ducks sport the league’s best home record (16-0-2), remaining the only team unbeaten in regulation on home ice this season. Anaheim joins San Jose (20-0-2, 2008-09) and Philadelphia (unbeaten streak of 19-0-7 in 1979-80) as the only NHL teams in 34 years to start a season with a home point streak of 18 games or more (Stat courtesy of Elias Sports Bureau).
Tonight marks the third of four consecutive games at Honda Center, the team’s longest homestand since playing five straight from Oct. 10-20.
Their opponent comes into town on a three-game losing streak (0-2-1), their most recent defeat coming last night in a 3-1 final at LA. The Ducks opened the season series with a 3-1 victory at Honda Center back on Nov. 10.
Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano, who signed a four-year contract extension yesterday, said it’s a different Canucks squad than in years past.
“I watched a few of their games this year, and under [head coach] John Tortorella, they have a stronger work ethic,” he said. “They work really hard. It seems like they have four lines that really create energy, and they just play a much harder game than the past couple years.”
Cogliano also said the Canucks have a knack for blocking shots, so finding ways to get pucks through will be crucial.
“They preach a lot in terms of blocking shots,” he said. “I know that [Ducks head coach] Bruce [Boudreau] has been telling that from Tortorella in New York. And when you have [goaltender] Roberto Luongo, it makes for a tough night where there’s a good goalie like that.”
Tonight’s game features two coaches who both came out West after spending time in the East. Boudreau joined the Ducks after serving as head coach for the Washington Capitals from 2007-11, while Tortorella left the New York Rangers having coached the fifth most games in franchise history (319). Prior to his six years in New York (1999-00; 2008-13), Tortorella spent eight years as head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning (2000-08).
The “Torts Effect” can be seen with the Canucks, who now emphasize a defense first mentality, according to Boudreau.
“They play like the New York Rangers,” he said. “I’ve coached against Torts for a long time. I’ve had two seven-game playoff series against him. When I watch Vancouver, they do the blocking of the shots and think defense first. You look at their defensive numbers right now and they’re as good as anybody in the league. They’re very difficult to score against.”
TRUE TEST AWAITS
In addition to playing the Canucks twice, the Ducks will battle the Bruins, Blackhawks, Blues, Kings (twice) and Coyotes, among others this month. While there are no easy games in today’s NHL, these teams all sit in the top-eight within their respective conferences. Cogliano says these types of opponents will be good for the Ducks as they head into the Olympic break next month.
“It gives us an opportunity to really bear down and put our best efforts in these games,” he said. “That’s the bottom line. When you play the best teams, you want to beat them and measure up against them. Knowing we have a good break in February, you approach all these games like it’s a playoff game.”
THIRD LINE’S A CHARM
The line of Cogliano, Saku Koivu and Daniel Winnik has combined for 14 points (7g/7a) with a +18 rating over the last five games. Cogliano has goals in four of his last five games (4g/1a) and eight points (4g/4a) in his last eight games. Koivu has recorded seven points (3g/4a) in his last five games and nine points (4g/5a) in his last eight, and scored both his 10th career overtime goal and 11th career shorthanded goal Dec. 28 vs. Phoenix. It marked his 26th career multi-goal game and first since Jan. 10, 2012 vs. Dallas (3g). In addition, Winnik has earned four assists in his last seven contests.
Anaheim and Vancouver play the second of a five-game season series tonight at Honda Center. The season series opened with a 3-1 Ducks win on Nov. 10 at Honda Center. Anaheim is 33-35-15 all-time vs. Vancouver, including a 15-15-11 mark in Orange County. Following tonight's game, these two teams will meet again at Honda Center on Jan. 15. The season series will conclude with a pair of games at Rogers Arena on Mar. 29 and Apr. 7.