It’s been exactly eight months since Anaheim’s 2013 postseason ended in the form of a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center in Game 7 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals.
A lot of things have changed since then, including Detroit making the move to the Eastern Conference as part of the new realignment, but that game – and series – served as motivation for this season. The theme throughout training camp was “Unfinished Business” – a reminder that last season ended much too soon for a Ducks team poised for a long playoff run.
Tonight, these two teams will meet again on Honda Center ice, and the first time as members of two different conferences.
The league-leading Ducks (34-8-5, 73 points) polished off a season sweep over the Phoenix Coyotes last night, a 5-3 victory at Jobing.com Arena, becoming the seventh team in NHL history to win 16+ games in a 17-game span (16-1-0). Anaheim is 8-0-0 at Honda Center and 8-1-0 on the road during the stretch, including a league-high six-game winning streak overall. Jonas Hiller recorded his 13th consecutive victory, becoming only the eighth goaltender in NHL history to win 13 straight decisions in a single year. (Elias Sports Bureau). The last goaltender to record 13 consecutive wins was Chris Osgood in 1996 with the Red Wings.
“It’s great to be winning so many games,” said Hiller. “It proves I play consistent and the team plays consistent over the last month and a half."
Whether Hiller plays again tonight will depend on how he feels, according to head coach Bruce Boudreau.
“I think there’s a chance,” Boudreau said last night. “I’ll talk to the goaltending coach on the plane. We’ll talk to Hilly and see how he feels. And then we’ll make a decision. We don’t ask him if he wants to go. We just want to know if he’s fatigued or not.”
The Red Wings (20-15-10, 50 points) are fourth in the Atlantic Division and in a three-way tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference, but are only two points ahead of ninth-place Ottawa.
They did the Ducks a favor last night by beating the Los Angeles Kings, 3-1, at Staples Center, giving Anaheim a 14-point lead on its crosstown rival.
Captain Ryan Getzlaf did not return for the final 20 minutes of last night’s game after blocking a shot with his foot late in the second period. Boudreau said X-rays were negative.
“He’s just day to day right now,” he said. “By the time he got back from the X-ray, which was negative, we were a third of a way through the third period. We had a pretty good lead so we said to just ice it and get ready for [Detroit].”
NO SYMPATHY FOR INJURED WINGS
The Ducks will look to capitalize on a Red Wings team decimated by injuries, including Pavel Datsyuk, Johan Franzen, Jonathan Ericsson and goaltender Jonas Gustavsson. In addition, the Wings were without the services of veteran forward Daniel Alfredsson last night, who sat out with an undisclosed injury. He’ll be a game-time decision tonight, according to Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
Goaltender Jimmy Howard injured his hip flexor during last night’s win, and won’t play tonight. In his place will be rookie Petr Mrazek, who came on in relief of Gustavsson in Anaheim’s 5-2 victory in Detroit on Dec. 17. Mrazek gave up two goals on 19 shots in 41:43 minutes of relief in the loss.
The Ducks are 18-0-2 at Honda Center this season, marking the best home start and longest home point streak in club history. Anaheim is the fifth team in 40 NHL seasons (since 1973-74) to record points in each of its first 20-plus home games of a season. The club joins Philadelphia (19-0-7, 1979-80), New York Islanders (19-0-4, 1978-79), San Jose (20-0-2, 2008-09) and Boston (19-0-2, 1973-74) in that category.
Anaheim is the only club in the NHL that has not lost in regulation at home this season, and has outscored the opposition, 79-39 (excluding two SO goals).
Anaheim and Detroit conclude a two-game season series tonight at Honda Center. Tonight is just the second time the Ducks face the Red Wings as an Eastern Conference opponent after 75 games within the Western Conference. Anaheim owns an all-time record of 20-44-12 vs. Detroit, including a 16-18-4 mark at Honda Center.