By Kyle Shohara
Morning Skate Photos
The Ducks open the month of December with a home tilt against the Boston Bruins, marking the first meeting of the season between these two clubs and the first of two against Eastern Conference opponents (Anaheim hosts Philadelphia on Wednesday). For the Bruins, tonight represents the first of four consecutive road games against Pacific Division clubs. They’ll head to LA for a game at Staples Center tomorrow night, followed by games at San Jose and Arizona.
Anaheim is looking to regain its winning ways after dropping back-to-back contests against the Blackhawks and Sharks on Friday and Saturday. After nearly clawing their way back from a four-goal deficit at SAP Center, a late hooking penalty and an empty-net goal in the final minute of regulation nullified what would have been a franchise-tying comeback.
Despite their recent skid, the Ducks earned points in 10 of 13 games in the month of November (5-3-5). Anaheim enters the game in second place in the Pacific Division and fourth in the Western Conference. Defenseman Sami Vatanen led the team in scoring (2-10=12) and assists in November and Matt Beleskey had a team-leading six goals. Among NHL defensemen last month, Vatanen ranked tied for third in scoring and tied for second in assists.
Throughout the past couple of weeks, the Ducks have been preaching the necessity to play a full 60-minute game. Momentarily lapses have cost them games recently and their lack of consistency has been an issue throughout the season.
“When we put our minds to it and we play the way we’re capable of, we showed what we can do,” said Cam Fowler on Saturday’s near-comeback. “It’s just trying to get that for 60 minutes. It’s something we need to figure out as a group. A lot of it is preparation on what we do heading into the game and making sure at the first drop of the puck that we play the same way we did when we had desperation in San Jose.
“If we can do that over the course of the whole game, we’re going to be a very difficult team to go up against.”
There is no secret to how the Bruins play. Now it’s up to the Ducks to be ready from the opening faceoff and keep that “desperation” throughout the course of the game.
“They play the same way regardless of whoever they have in the lineup,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “Claude [Julien] plays the same way. They have to play the same way to be a Boston Bruin. They have a lot of tenacity, they compete, they never quit and they’re fast. When you’re playing the Boston Bruins, you’re in for a real tough game.”
Anaheim owns an all-time record of 11-9-6 record against Boston, including a 5-4-4 mark at home. The Ducks won the most recent meeting between the two teams, a 5-2 victory on Jan. 7, 2014 at Honda Center and also earned a point in their first matchup of 2013-14 with a 3-2 shootout loss on Halloween in Boston. Corey Perry has 4-3=7 points in nine career games against the Bruins, pacing current Anaheim players.
Two guys with plenty of experience playing the Bruins (who happened to be teammates on the Tampa Bay Lightning) are Nate Thompson and Eric Brewer. Thompson was drafted by the Bruins in the sixth round (183rd overall) of the 2003 NHL Draft and went on to appear in four games wearing the Bruins sweater. Prior to joining the Ducks, the Anchorage, Alaska native spent his entire career in the Eastern Conference. Brewer was an Islanders draft pick who spent seven years in the Eastern Conference.
“They’re a team that’s been pretty good for a long time,” said Thompson. “You know what you’re going to get from them. They’re a heavy team that doesn’t give up much.”
Added Brewer, “They’re a big and strong team. They play the same way all the time. There will be no surprises. They’re going to try to own the boards. They’ve got good depth and great goaltending. It’ll be a good matchup tonight.”
Speaking of Brewer, he made his Ducks debut on Saturday night after being acquired from the Lightning for a 2015 third-round selection on Friday. The veteran defenseman logged 15:07 TOI and recorded two shots and two hits. Brewer saw his playing time decrease near the end of his time in Tampa Bay and was a healthy scratch in four of the club’s past five games before he was dealt to Anaheim. Brewer says coming to the Ducks was like a breath of fresh air.
“It was certainly welcome news,” he said. “I’m very excited to be here. It’s clearly a very good team and I’m excited about that. The news came quick and I moved quick, but I’m just excited for this opportunity.”
Brewer says being reunited with a familiar face, in this case Thompson, helps with the transition process. “It’s always good to have someone you know to have around just to help break the ice,” he said. “But I’ve been around long enough so it doesn’t take too long nowadays. It’s all good.”
Because of Jason LaBarbera’s upper-body injury (he’s listed as day to day), the Ducks have recalled goaltender Igor Bobkov from Norfolk of the American Hockey League. The 23-year-old netminder appeared in six games with the Admirals this season, going 1-4-0 with a 4.70 goals-against average and .842 save percentage. The 6-foot-6, 238-pound goaltender was originally recalled from Norfolk on Nov. 4, but did not make an appearance with Anaheim prior to being reassigned the following day.
A third-round draft pick (76th overall) of the 2009 NHL Draft, Bobkov split the 2013-14 season between Norfolk and Utah (ECHL), going a combined 22-11-5 with two shutouts, a 2.13 GAA and .920 SV%. Bobkov ranked second among ECHL netminders in GAA (2.04) and fifth in SV % (.921), while also earning ECHL Goaltender of the Month honors for February and March.
Bobkov has yet to appear in an NHL game.
Ryan Getzlaf leads Anaheim in scoring (7-15=22) and assists, and has eight multi-point games in 24 games this season.
Ryan Kesler has 6-12=18 points in his first 25 games as a Duck, including 3-7=10 points in his last 11.
Perry, who has scored 14 goals in 20 games this season, ranks tied for fourth among NHL leaders in goals.
Vatanen already has a career-high four power-play goals, is tied for fifth among league leaders in power-play points (4-8=12, leading NHL defensemen) and tied for seventh for goals by a defenseman (5). Vatanen enters tonight's game with 2-10=12 points in his last 12 games, ranks third among team leaders in overall scoring (5-14=19) and second in assists.
Beleskey has tied his career high in goals with 11 in only 25 games and has points in four of his last six games (4-1=5).