By Kyle Shohara
A five-game, nine-day road trip comes to an end tonight, as the (playoff bound) Ducks conclude the season series with the New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center. Over the course of the previous four games on this trip, the Ducks experienced a two-game losing streak, a players-only meeting, a postgame photo with Shaelin Earle (who also was named Player of the Game) in Boston, two consecutive victories and a berth into the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. There is never a dull moment with the Ducks.
So with a ticket to the postseason – the club’s third consecutive playoff berth and 11th in franchise history – the Ducks have five games remaining to hone their craft before the real fun begins. Their opponent tonight, however, won’t be among the 16 teams that qualify for the postseason. The Devils – the club that defeated the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in a seven-game Stanley Cup Final back in 2003 – enter tonight’s action with a pedestrian 31-32-12 record (74 points). Since making it back to the Final in 2012 vs. Los Angeles, the Devils have missed the postseason the past three seasons and four of the previous five.
Because the morning skates for both clubs were cancelled this morning, lineups will remain to be seen. Will Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau go with Frederik Andersen on back-to-back days? Andersen (33-11-5, 2.40 GAA, .914 SV%) had one of his best performances as a Duck yesterday in the club’s 3-2 victory against the New York Islanders. After a string of rough starts, Andersen has won two in a row and three of his past four. Gibson (12-7-0, 2.65 GAA, .914 SV%), last played in the loss on March 24 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Gibson has a 10-5-0 record in 17 games since his recall on Feb. 10. As for the forward line combinations and defensive pairings, Boudreau could stick with what’s worked the past two games, or reintroduce Tomas Fleischmann and/or Emerson Etem back into the lineup. Fleischmann has been a healthy scratch for two consecutive games, and Etem hasn’t played since the first game on the trip (March 22 at NYR). The Ducks don’t play again until Wednesday (Oilers), so the thought of Boudreau giving some of his veterans an extra day’s rest is also a possibility.
MID-ATLANTIC ASSASSINPOTENTIAL LINE COMBINATIONS
The nickname given to Kyle Palmieri by former Duck Ben Lovejoy lives on as the Montvale, New Jersey native continues to thrive in games in and around the New York City area. Palmieri scored a goal in last night’s victory in Uniondale, New York, and went on a tear last season in games back East. Palmieri, who was born in Smithtown, New York, had two goals and four points in consecutive road games last season (ironically) against the Islanders and Devils. The 24-year-old had the overtime winner at Prudential Center on Dec. 21, 2013, and then followed it up with a two-point performance at Nassau Coliseum. Earlier that season, Palmieri scored the eventual game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory in his first ever game at Madison Square Garden. Not to be forgotten, Palmieri scored two goals, including the game winner on Oct. 29, 2013 at Philadelphia.
Jiri Sekac-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Kyle Palmieri
Patrick Maroon-Rickard Rakell-Jakob Silfverberg
Andrew Cogliano-Nate Thompson-Chris Wagner
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler-Sami Vatanen
Simon Despres-James WisniewskiNEW JERSEY
Reid Boucher-Scott Gomez-Steve Bernier
Adam Henrique-Patrik Elias-Stephen Gionta
Mike Cammalleri-Travis Zajac-Jordin Tootoo
Tuomo Ruutu-Dainius Zubrus-Jacob Josefson
Andy Greene-Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill-Damon Severson
Eric Gelinas-Mark Fraser