By Kyle Shohara
The Ducks find themselves in the Sunshine State for tonight’s road contest against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center (4:30 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket, AM 830). Tonight marks the first of four games on the road which continues Thursday in Tampa Bay, Friday at Carolina and Monday night in Pittsburgh.
No team in the league is hotter than the Ducks right now, who sit atop the standings with a 15-3-1 record (31 points). The Ducks have won five straight games (5-0-0), the longest active streak in the NHL, and have a standings point streak of nine consecutive games (8-0-1), tied for the longest standings point streak this season (San Jose from Oct. 3-21, also 8-0-1). In addition, Anaheim's 31-point start to the season matches the club record through 19 games (also 15-3-1 in 2012-13).
On the opposite end of the spectrum are the Florida Panthers (3-11-4, 10 points), who enter tonight’s game on a nine-game losing streak (0-5-4), and sit 15th in the 16-team Eastern Conference. Tonight marks Florida’s lone home game sandwiched between eight road contests. The Panthers recently completed a three-game road trip (0-3-0) and will embark on a season-long five-game trek beginning Friday in Minnesota.
"I don’t use the word trap, but it’s a scary game," said head coach Bruce Boudreau. "When you have a new coach and you come back into their building, you just know they’re going to be flying.
"They’ve lost their last two all by one goal, so it’s not like they’re far away. They just need a break here or there. They’re going to win sometime and they’re going to start winning in droves, but we just don’t want it to be tonight."
Ryan Getzlaf was not on the ice this morning and will not play tonight, according to Boudreau. Getzlaf missed Sunday’s game but is expected to practice tomorrow with hopes of playing Thursday in Tampa Bay.
Frederik Andersen is expected to make his third consecutive start tonight. The 24-year-old rookie was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week for Nov. 4-10 after going 3-0-0 with a 1.33 GAA and .958 SV%. In his first six career NHL contests, Andersen has gone 6-0-0 with a 1.41 GAA and .952 SV%. He became the first goalie to win his first six NHL games since December, 1993 (Toronto’s Damian Rhodes from 3/22/91-12/2/93) and is the only ACTIVE goalie to do so.
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Dustin Penner - Mathieu Perreault - Corey Perry
Emerson Etem - Nick Bonino - Teemu Selanne
Andrew Cogliano - Daniel Winnik - Devante Smith-Pelly
Patrick Maroon - Rickard Rakell - Kyle Palmieri*
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler - Ben Lovejoy
Luca Sbisa - Bryan Allen
*There is a chance the Ducks dress seven defensemen tonight.
NOTE: With tonight's appearance, Corey Perry will tie Ruslan Salei (594) for fourth on Anaheim's all-time games played list.
The Anaheim Ducks and Florida Panthers meet for the first of two times in 2013-14. The clubs will close out the season series in Anaheim on March 23 at Honda Center. The Ducks have won three straight games vs. the Panthers dating to Feb. 1, 2010 (also a win on Dec. 1, 2010 at Honda Center, 5-3). All-time, Anaheim is 10-9-4 vs. Florida.