By Kyle Shohara
Morning Skate Photos
Before the Ducks enjoy their holiday break, they’ll have one last order of business, a divisional matchup against the San Jose Sharks tonight at Honda Center.
The Ducks are coming off a five-game, nine-day road trip that saw them take three of five (six points) to keep them atop the NHL’s standings. Also tied for third in victories, the Ducks have won eight of their last 10 games (8-2-0), gone 11-4-0 in their last 15 and earned 49 points in their last 34 (22-7-5). And at Honda Center, Anaheim has won three straight games (3-0-0) and five of its last six (5-1-0).
Their opponent comes in as the league’s hottest team. San Jose’s 3-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday completed their perfect 5-0-0 homestand, marking a season-high winning streak for the Sharks. San Jose has also won nine of its past 10 games to narrow the gap behind the division-leading Ducks to seven points.
Anaheim has lost the first two games of the season series.
“This team has completely outplayed us the first two games, and we need to be better tonight,” said a no-frills Ben Lovejoy. “We need to come out with energy and be wide awake. This is a huge game and the guys in the room are excited.”
With how the first two games of the series have played out, don’t expect any Christmas cards to be exchanged between the two clubs. The first meeting of the season, a 4-1 win for San Jose, kickstarted the intrastate rivalry with a bang.
In that game, both teams combined for 165 penalty minutes, 75 by Anaheim and 90 for San Jose. Twenty-four individual penalties were issued in the third period alone, including seven 10-minute misconducts. Five Ducks players finished with at least 10 minutes of penalties: Tim Jackman (21), Corey Perry (17), Nate Thompson (14), Matt Beleskey (10) and Ryan Kesler (10). San Jose was led by John Scott (22), Adam Burish (16) and Justin Braun (14).
Although the second meeting of the season pales in comparison to the first (at least on the scoresheet), 32 minutes of penalties were dished out, 16 for either side. The vibe and intensity is that of a postseason matchup, and tonight figures to be more of the same.
“It’s a battle, no matter what either of our records are,” said Lovejoy. “They come at you incredibly hard right away. We want to go into this Christmas break with some momentum. We need to be ready right away tonight.”
FINISH STRONG BEFORE THE BREAK
As Lovejoy alluded to, a win tonight will put the Ducks in the right frame of mind heading into the holiday break. The Ducks don’t play again until Saturday, a road contest at Arizona, and Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau says San Jose is the right opponent to play at this very moment.
“It’s the perfect opponent to play around this time of the year,” he said. “Everything is starting to heat up. They’re playing really well. It should be a good game.”
Ducks forward Patrick Maroon says it won’t be difficult getting amped for this one tonight. “Everyone is excited to play, especially since it’s the last game before the break,” he said. “Everyone is ready to get up and at ‘em and go into the break happy.”
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Hampus Lindholm fans can rest easy, as earlier today Boudreau said that the 20-year-old defenseman is in the lineup. As expected, neither Francois Beauchemin nor Corey Perry will play tonight. Frederik Andersen is expected to get the nod in net tonight.
Patrick Maroon-Ryan Getzlaf-Devante Smith-Pelly
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Emerson Etem
Andrew Cogliano-Rickard Rakell-Jakob Silfverberg
Rene Bourque-Nate Thompson-Tim Jackman
Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy
Hampus Lindholm-Mark Fistric
Clayton Stoner-Sami Vatanen
UGLY SWEATER NIGHT
Last, but certainly not least, be sure to wear your ugly sweater tonight. Not only because of style points, but also to take advantage of several discounts around the arena.
Any fan wearing an ugly sweater to tonight's game will receive 10% off a jersey at the Anaheim Ducks Team Store Powered by Reebok located on the 200 level outside section 206. Fans are also encouraged to check out all of the ugly sweaters and enjoy $2 off pizza and select appetizers immediately following the game at Standing 'O'.