By Kyle Shohara
The Ducks will reach the midway point in their four-game road trip tonight as they face an injury-depleted Blues team. Anaheim is coming off a 1-0 victory at Chicago two nights ago, fueled by John Gibson’s 38-save shutout (second SO of his career) and Devante Smith-Pelly’s game-winning shorthanded goal (second SHG of his career). The win propelled the club to a 8-2-0 record (16 points), tops in the Western Conference.
The Ducks blanked the Blues, 3-0, at Honda Center on October 19, in what was the first shutout of Frederik Andersen’s career. Sami Vatanen recorded his first career multi-goal game and captain Ryan Getzlaf had two helpers in the victory. That was the fourth consecutive win against the Blues dating back to last season (three-game sweep) and the eighth consecutive victory vs. St. Louis at Honda Center. The Ducks are riding a two-game road winning streak at Scottrade Center, also dating back to 2013-14.
Despite their recent overall success against the Blues, the Ducks haven’t fared well at Scottrade Center over the years. Anaheim is 15-17-8 in St. Louis, and defenseman Cam Fowler knows the Blues will bring their best effort tonight. “They play the game the right way,” he said. “This building has always been a difficult place to come in and play. Even though they have a couple key guys out of the lineup, it doesn’t change our approach to the game. We know we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
It’s been an uphill battle since the start of the season for the Blues, who won’t have their top-two centers in the lineup. They lost prized pivot Paul Stastny to a shoulder injury on his first shift in the team’s fourth game of the season. Stastny hasn’t played since, and he’s currently on injured reserve. TJ Oshie and captain David Backes both suffered concussions in the team’s 4-3 overtime victory two nights ago at Dallas, according to Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock. To add insult to injury, Joakim Lindstrom will not play due to illness.
“Some seasons are smooth, some seasons are scrambles,” said Hitchcock. “We’re in scramble mode right now. No one’s feeling sorry for us. We’ve got to keep pace with everybody until we get these guys back in. Just can’t get too far behind the pack.”
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau knows that teams tend to rise up when faced with adversity. “Look around the league and you’ll find when teams have injuries – short-term – they play better,” he said. “I expect them to be better. They’re hungry, and there’s a fear of losing."
Boudreau tweaked the top-two lines during the morning skate, so you can expect Matt Beleskey on the top line with Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and Dany Heatley with Ryan Kesler and Smith-Pelly. This should come as no surprise, as Boudreau is known for shuffling the deck on a regular basis, even if the team is finding success.
If the morning skate was any indication, expect John Gibson to make his second consecutive start in net.
MAROON ON THE FAST TRACK
Some encouraging news out of Ducks camp this morning, as Patrick Maroon’s recovery from a lower-body injury is coming along faster than anticipated, according to Boudreau. Maroon suffered the injury as a result of a check by Sabres defenseman Josh Gorges in a game on October 13. Originally expected to be out four weeks, Maroon might be a possibility before the road trip ends on Sunday at Colorado. That’s great news for the Ducks and Maroon, who had three assists in three games this season.
Tonight’s game will feature the two leading active Ironman streaks in the NHL. Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano is set to appear in his 551st consecutive appearance (Cogliano has not missed a game since his NHL debut with Edmonton on Oct. 4, 2007), second only to St. Louis defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who will play in consecutive game No. 726. Cogliano is the fifth player in NHL history and first since Doug Jarvis to play 500 straight games from the start of his NHL career. Cogliano made his 509th consecutive appearance on Jan. 18, 2014 at St. Louis, surpassing Murray Murdoch (1926-27 to 1936-37) for sole possession of fourth on the five-player list. Jarvis is the NHL's all-time Ironman with 964 consecutive games played from 1975-88.
DUCKS TO WATCH
Perry (9-3=12) and Getzlaf (3-9=12) have recorded the second-most points (9-9=12) through the first 10 games of a season in team history (Paul Kariya had 6-7=13 in the opening 10 games in 1998-99 and Getzlaf had 3-10=13 in the opening 10 games in 2010-11). Perry also has the most goals in 10 games in franchise history. Perry currently co-leads the NHL in goals and power-play goals (4), and ranks tied for fifth in points. Getzlaf, who ranks tied for fourth in assists and tied for fifth in scoring, has multi-point games (1-5=6) in three of his last five contests.
Kesler has 3-4=7 points in his first 10 games as a Duck, while Smith-Pelly has points in five of his last seven games (3-2=5). Vatanen already has a career-high three power-play goals in 10 games, tied for fourth among NHL leaders. Vatanen also ranks tied for second in power-play points (3-4=7) and tied for fifth for goals by a defenseman (3).
FOR THE BLUES
Jake Allen brings a 1-1-0 record, 2.02 goals-against average and .915 save percentage into tonight’s contest against the Ducks. Allen won his only start against the Ducks, a 2-1 OT victory on March 16, 2013. All-time, Allen is 10-5-0 with a 2.40 GAA and .906 SV%.
Vladimir Tarasenko recorded his first career hat trick and the second by a Blue this season (Jaden Schwartz, October 18 at Arizona), in St. Louis’ 4-3 OT win at Dallas on October 28.
Schwartz leads the Blues with five goals and co-leads the squad in overall points (8) through eight games. Last season, Schwartz ranked third on the club with 25 goals, becoming the fourth youngest Blue in team history to post 25+ goals in a single season.
Below is footage from Anaheim's morning skate at Scottrade Center.