By Kyle Shohara
Morning Skate Photos
It’s been exactly one week since the Ducks and Flames faced one another at Scotiabank Saddledome, in what was goalie Jonas Hiller’s first game against his former team. Tonight, these division rivals do battle yet again, and it’ll be Hiller in net for Calgary.
You can bet last week’s game will be on the minds of the Ducks, who took a two-goal lead into the third period only to allow three unanswered before tying it late in regulation. Calgary prevailed in the shootout and Hiller rejoiced by leaping into the air. But since then, the Ducks have won two in a row, including Sunday’s 2-1 regulation win over the Coyotes; their first non-overtime/shootout victory since Nov. 2 at Colorado.
“It’s going to be a tough game,” said Kyle Palmieri, who scored in Tuesday’s game at Calgary. “They haven’t won in this building in a while, so they’re going to want to come in here and show they’re the real deal. We’ve got to be ready from the drop of the puck. We’ve been slowly inching our way to a 60-minute effort, so hopefully we put one together.”
The regulation victory on Sunday occurred on the heels of the club’s previous stretch of games from Oct. 31-Nov. 20 in which 8 of 10 went beyond 60 minutes, a franchise first in any 10-game stretch. In addition, the Ducks played nine OT/SO contests in the first 21 games to match a 2003-04 franchise record to start a season. Because they continue to find ways to earn points, the Ducks lead the Western Conference and rank second among NHL teams in overall standings points, have points in 10 of their last 11 games (15 pts.) and 31 points in their last 21 (13-3-5).
TEN YEARS STRONG
The Ducks have won 18 straight games against the Flames at Honda Center, dating back to Jan. 19, 2004. Those 18 consecutive games represent the longest home win streak vs. one opponent in club history.
“Sometimes you have good luck in buildings,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “They’ve probably been unlucky a couple of times and they were going through a time when they weren’t playing as well.”
Having not played since Saturday, Boudreau expects a motivated – and well-rested – Flames squad tonight. “This is their first game of the road trip. Having not played since Saturday, I expect them to be as hungry and as good as they’ve been all year.”
From a Flames perspective, their decade-long losing streak is partly a product of Anaheim’s dominance on home ice. “It’s been a long time,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “It’s not only us. Their home record speaks for itself. They’re a tough team to play in that building. We have to play our style. We had a great third period against them the last time we played them.”
The man who called Anaheim home for seven years will emerge out of Honda Center’s visiting locker room for the first time in his career. Hiller was originally signed as an undrafted free agent on May 25, 2007. In his seven-year career in Anaheim, the Switzerland native posted a 162-110-32 record in 326 games, and he currently ranks first in franchise history in save percentage (.916), second in goals-against average (2.51) and third in wins, shutouts (21) and appearances. The 32-year-old also appeared in 26 postseason games (12-12), including three shutouts.
Hiller was all smiles as a large group of local reporters converged upon his locker stall, prompting him to jokingly announce he had called them prior to the skate to make his interview appear full.
“Just flying in last night and being here as a visitor is still a little strange, but that’s a part of the business,” he said. “I’m just going to try and focus on the game and play as good as I can.
“All streaks have to come to an end. It would be a great feeling.”
Boudreau hopes Hiller gets a more pleasant reception than what Ryan Kesler received when he returned to Vancouver last Thursday. “He was good for us,” Boudreau said of Hiller. “He was the backbone of this team for four years. From the playoffs to playing 32 straight games when we were depleted, I hope [the fans] appreciate the effort he put in here.”
Added Hiller, “I’m definitely hoping for a positive reaction. I always enjoyed being here. The fans have been great to me and there’s a lot of support. The Ducks made a name for themselves in California and it was nice to be a part of that.”
STONER SKATES WITH TEAM
Ducks defenseman Clayton Stoner skated with the team for the first time in a few days as he inches near a return to the lineup. Stoner missed Sunday’s game due to what was described as “mild mump-like symptoms.” He was not confirmed to have disease at that time, but was held out for precautionary reasons.
“I feel okay,” he said after the morning skate. “I’m feeling a little rundown, but other than that I’m not contagious, so it’s okay to be around the guys, which is nice. I was worried about it because you saw how sick [Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin] were, but thank God I didn’t have the crazy fever and flu like they had.”
As for a timetable, Stoner says he’ll skate tomorrow and Thursday, and then assess how he feels leading up to Friday’s afternoon game vs. Chicago.