By Kyle Shohara
Believe it or not, a quarter of the season is already in the books as the Ducks begin Game No. 22 tonight against the division rival Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center. Anaheim (12-4-5, 29 points) enters tonight’s action leading the Western Conference and ranking second among NHL teams in overall standings points (Montreal, 16-5-1, 33 points), has points in nine of its last 10 games (13 pts.) and 29 points in its last 20 (12-3-5). The Coyotes, meanwhile, rank sixth in the seven-team Pacific Division with a 9-10-2 record (20 points). Arizona arrived in Orange County late last night after defeating the San Jose Sharks, 4-3 in a shootout at SAP Center.
Despite the discrepancy between these two clubs, the Coyotes came away with a 3-2 shootout win on Nov. 7 at Honda Center. That night, Anaheim jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first period on goals by Ryan Getzlaf and Matt Beleskey, their fourth and seventh of the season, respectively. But in the opening five minutes of the second, the Coyotes responded with a pair of goals 58 seconds apart to tie the game. After a scoreless third and overtime, Arizona struck twice in the shootout to clinch the second standings point. Frederik Andersen stopped 23-of-25 shots in regulation and overtime in his first shootout loss of the season. The shootout loss was the third game in a four-game stretch that went beyond regulation, and just the beginning of what has become a franchise record (see below).
Anaheim leads the league with nine overtime/shootout games this season. In fact, the nine OT/SO contests in the first 21 games ties a 2003-04 franchise record to start a season. The Ducks have also gone beyond regulation in eight of their last 10 games, a franchise first in any 10-game stretch. The Ducks went to the extra session just once in their first 11 games of the season (4-3 SO victory, Oct. 14 at Philadelphia).
Though the Ducks came away with three out of four points during their recent two-game road trip, they blew two-goals leads in each game, allowing divisional opponents Calgary and Vancouver to earn points. Being able to put teams away has been an issue recently, and Corey Perry says the team needs to sharpen up moving forward.
“We’ve had leads in the last couple of games, and we’ve given them away,” he said. “It’s not what the other team is doing; it’s what we’re doing. If we sharped up in the d-zone and neutral zone, limit our turnovers and just execute, I think we’re going to be all right.”
The Ducks will also look to win at home on a Sunday – something they haven’t done in their previous two attempts. “We haven’t been doing that well on Sundays at home lately, so it’s a big game that we have to be ready for,” said Beleskey. “They’re a hard-working team, and we always have some pretty good games against them. But we have to play that full 60-minute game. We’re still working on that. There are a few things we need to tidy up, but I think it’s coming together.
BOURQUE ELIGIBLE TO PLAY
Rene Bourque arrived in Anaheim late Friday night and practiced with his new team yesterday at Honda Center. All necessary paperwork was completed and approved on Friday, allowing the 32-year-old to join the Ducks and play in tonight’s game. Bourque was acquired from the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday in exchange for defenseman Bryan Allen, who made his Habs debut last night in a 2-0 victory at Boston.
Bourque had a phenomenal 2014 postseason, leading the Canadiens in goals (8) and co-leading in hits (52). He also recorded his first career playoff hat trick in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Final on May 27, 2014 vs. the New York Rangers. But his inconsistent play during his four-year stay in Montreal eventually led to him being placed on waivers earlier this month. Bourque cleared, and reported to Hamilton of the American Hockey League. While there, Bourque recorded two goals and four points in four games. The Lac La Biche, Alberta native had two points (assists) in 13 games with Montreal this season.
“I’m very excited,” he said of his new opportunity with Anaheim. “I was looking to be moved after everything went down in Montreal. It was nice changing to a new team. I think I have a lot left and a lot to give to this team. I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
Bourque racked up consecutive 27-goal seasons with Calgary (2009-10, 2010-11) and posted 108 points in 153 games during that span. And with his postseason performance, Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau believes Bourque still has plenty left to give.
“I don’t think his skills have diminished at all,” said Boudreau. “Hopefully we can motivate him to the point where he’s playing the way he did in the playoffs last year. You know the skills are there. We’re hoping this works out as a good fit for us.”
Bourque’s status for tonight remains to be determined. “Sometimes a guy comes in and you want him to see a few practices before he jumps in,” said Boudreau. “For some guys, it’s a necessity to throw him right in. We’re still in discussions.”