By Kyle Shohara
For only the second time this season, the Ducks took to the ice for a pregame skate at Honda Center on a Saturday morning. Tonight marks the final Saturday home game for the Ducks, who are in the midst of a five-game homestand that brings the Dallas Stars to Anaheim (7 p.m. PT, Fox Sports West, AM 830).
But they’ll be without the services of Nick Bonino, who left Thursday’s game with an upper-body injury after getting hit by Flyers forward Zac Rinaldo.
“Right now, it’s day-to-day,” head coach Bruce Boudreau said of Bonino’s status. “If it gets to that point where it’s iffy, then we’ll shut him down because he’ll have three weeks to get better.”
Because of his injury, the Ducks recalled David Steckel earlier today from the Norfolk Admirals of the American Hockey League.
The 6-foor-6 center was on the ice this morning and is expected to be in tonight’s lineup.
“Just like last time, I’m going to come up and try to contribute as much as I can,” he said. “I’m out there to forecheck, create chances off the forecheck and be responsible in my own end. If I get the opportunity for any other spot, I’ll take a hold of it.”
Steckel will also be relied upon to win faceoffs, and in four games with the Ducks this year, he’s gone 21-of-36 (58.3%). At the time of his recall, Steckel had 15 points (5g/10a) in 36 AHL contests with Iowa and Norfolk.
STAYING TRUE TO THE SYSTEM
After Thursday’s physical battle against the Flyers, the Ducks will now face a Stars team that’s known for its speed and high-powered offense. Each team has scored nine goals against each other in the first two games of the series (both 6-3 scores), and the Ducks were guilty of giving up three in a 53-second span in their loss at Dallas on Nov. 26. Defenseman Cam Fowler says it’ll take a big effort to neutralize the big guns on Dallas tonight.
“They have a lot of good skill and they do things the right way,” he said. “If we want to get into a run-and-gun game with them, it’s going to be beneficial for them. We need to stick to our structure and play 60 minutes as a team.”
Fellow defenseman Mark Fistric knows Dallas well, having played there for five seasons after being drafted by the Stars in the first round (28th overall) in the 2004 NHL Draft. He was teammates with Jamie Benn, who now captains the Stars and will represent Canada at the Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Fistric says the 24-year-old Benn has all the qualities of being a leader.
“I think Jamie Benn is one of the best all-around players in the National Hockey League,” he said. “He’s really big, really skilled, and he’s got speed. He cares so much, and I think that’s what makes him so successful. He wants to win and he wants to be that guy who helps his team win.
“That’s why he’s the captain of the team. That’s what they’re building around. What better guy to have than Jamie Benn on your team.”
For the Ducks, Fistric says it’s all about sticking to their game plan.
“It doesn’t matter if a team is skilled and fast, or big and heavy,” he said. “We need to play hard and make sure we’re taking care of our own end, getting pucks deep, and using our size. We need to play our game, and that’s when we have success.”
Boudreau says the emergence of several fourth-line players has been a big advantage for the Stars.
“I know their personnel pretty well,” he said. “They’re four-lines deep that can skate. You better be able to not get into a run-and-gun game with them. Their defense is very mobile. When [Kari] Lehtonen is on, they’re as good as any team.
“We worry about them. We know it’s going to be a tough game. The biggest difference is [Ryan] Garbutt and [Antoine] Roussel, who are basically fourth-line guys, are now playing extremely well. That’s a big advantage for them.”
Anaheim and Dallas conclude a three-game season series tonight at Honda Center. The Ducks and Stars have traded 6-3 wins in the first two games, including Oct. 20 at Honda Center (Anaheim win) and Nov. 26 at American Airlines Center (Dallas win). These two teams were Pacific Division opponents for 15 seasons prior to the start of the 2013-14 campaign when the Stars moved to the Central Division. All-time, Anaheim is 39-59-11 vs. Dallas, including a 36-56-11 mark at Honda Center. Teemu Selanne has appeared in 100 career contests vs. the Stars, earning 41-45=86 points.