By Kyle Shohara
The first game of the New Year is upon us, as the Ducks continue their four-game homestand tonight against the Edmonton Oilers at Honda Center (7 p.m. PT, Fox Sports West, AM 830).
Tonight’s game features two teams on opposite ends of the Western Conference standings. The Pacific Division-leading Ducks (29-8-5, 63 points) are second in the conference and one point away from the league-leading Chicago Blackhawks. Anaheim enters tonight’s game with a 9-1-0 record over its past 10 games. Meanwhile, the Oilers rank last in the West with a 13-25-5 record (31 points) and are 2-6-2 over their past 10 contests.
Despite the disparity in points, the Oilers took Anaheim to the brink in the series opener on Dec. 15 at Honda Center [3-2 Ducks victory]. If not for a go-ahead goal late in regulation, the Ducks could be the team looking for retribution tonight.
“We look at their lineup, and actually playing against them, they’re a good team,” said defenseman Ben Lovejoy. “Their top line [Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, David Perron/Jordan Eberle] is one of the most skilled I’ve ever seen. They can all beat you one on one, they can all skate by you, and they all have the confidence to try moves some guys wouldn’t. That’s dangerous.”
Fellow defenseman Hampus Lindholm said good gap control is needed to neutralize Edmonton’s high-flying top line.
“You just have to be in their face,” he said. “You have to be close and not give them any extra room. You don’t want to give them that extra second.”
TIME ON THE TOP LINE
Jakob Silfverberg will once again skate on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, after earning an assist and a +2 rating in 16:51 TOI during Anaheim’s 6-3 victory vs. San Jose on New Year’s Eve.
“It’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I think they’re the top two players in the league. It’s very easy to play with them. They’re very good at handling the puck, and they work hard. For me, it was a lot of fun.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau said it’s a testament to Silfverberg’s versatility. “I have no problem playing him anywhere,” he said. “He can play everywhere from power play, penalty kill, from left wing to right wing. I haven’t tried him at center yet, but we still have half a year [laughs].”
The 23-year-old will face the Oilers for the first time in his brief NHL career. The East never faced the West during the 2012-13 regular season (his rookie year with Ottawa), and he was still out of the lineup for the series opener on Dec. 15.
“They have a very young, skilled team,” he said. “We have to play hard, make sure to get pucks deep on them, and work them hard. They’re quick in transition and can make good plays.”
HONDA CENTER DOMINANCE
The Ducks enter tonight’s game with a 15-0-2 record at Honda Center this season, marking the best home start and longest home point streak (previous: 10-0-4, Feb. 12-Apr. 9, 1997) in club history. Anaheim joins San Jose (20-0-2, 2008-09) and Calgary (14-0-3, 1988-89) as the only NHL teams in 25 years to start a season with a home point streak of 17 games-or-more. Anaheim is the only club in the NHL that has not lost in regulation at home this season. The Ducks set a club record with eight straight home wins to open a season and was the last NHL team to lose at home in 2013-14 (Nov. 20 overtime loss vs. New Jersey). At home, Anaheim has outscored the opposition, 65-31 (excluding two shootout goals).
In addition to being 18-3-4 when scoring the first goal, the Ducks are a league-best 11-5-1 when their opponent scores first. San Jose (9-7-1) is the only other NHL team over .500 when allowing the first goal.
Anaheim and Edmonton play the second of a five-game season series tonight at Honda Center. This season marks the first time these two teams have played more than four games in a regular season since the 1998-99 campaign, when the clubs faced each other five times (2-3-0 record for Anaheim). The Ducks have won a franchise-tying five consecutive games vs. the Oilers, most recently a 3-2 victory on Dec. 15 at Honda Center. Anaheim owns a 43-34-6 all-time record vs. Edmonton, including a 23-16-3 mark at Honda Center. Following tonight's game, the season series will feature one additional game in Anaheim on Apr. 2 and two games in Edmonton on Mar. 28 and Apr. 6.