By Kyle Shohara
After spending most of this month on the road, the Ducks are finally enjoying some home comfort in the form of a (brief) two-game homestand that begins tonight against the New Jersey Devils (7:00 p.m., Fox Sports West, AM 830).
Despite only earning one out of a possible eight points in their last four games (0-3-1), the Ducks share the NHL standings lead with the Chicago Blackhawks and have earned points in 10 of the last 13 contests (8-3-2). On the flip side, the Ducks are only two points ahead of eighth-place Minnesota in the highly competitive Western Conference.
Tonight’s contest once again involves an Eastern Conference opponent. In fact, 15 of Anaheim’s 23 games have been against teams from the East, and the Ducks are 8-5-2 in those games. For the Ducks to keep their unbeaten streak alive at home, they’ll have to get through a Devils team that’s won three of their last four games.
“They’re a frustrating team to play against,” said Ben Lovejoy, who spent parts of five seasons in the Eastern Conference with the Pittsburgh Penguins. “They’re outstanding defensively. People don’t understand how good Martin Brodeur is with the puck. He really limits offensive zone time because he’s able to get back there and stop everything. He’s got great hands. He’s able to start their breakout and stop us from being aggressive in the [offensive] zone.”
Mathieu Perreault is also familiar with the Devils, having played his entire career in Washington prior to joining the Ducks. “They play [their system] really well,” he said. “They don’t give up much. It’s going to be a tight game. We can’t get frustrated if we don’t get a goal right away because they’re a team that likes to play to their system. We’ve been struggling getting goals so we need to stick to our game plan and play hard.”
Saku Koivu took part in the team’s morning skate, but head coach Bruce Boudreau said he won’t be in tonight’s lineup.
“He’s got to be cleared by doctors to play, and he hasn’t been given the green light yet,” Boudreau said.
TWO LEGENDS IN ACTION
Future Hall-of-Famers Teemu Selanne and Jaromir Jagr are set to face each other tonight at Honda Center. Between the two players, they have a combined 1,366 goals and rank 10th (Jagr, 688) and 11th (Selanne, 678) on the NHL’s all-time goals list.
This will mark the first time in over 10 years that two NHL players with 675-or-more goals faced each other in a contest. The last occurrence was when Detroit’s Brett Hull (717 goals) faced the New York Rangers’ Mark Messier (678 goals) on Oct. 25, 2003 at Madison Square Garden. Messier scored his 679th goal in that game.
Additionally, Selanne and Jagr’s combined NHL goal total of 1,366 is the most between two players facing each other since Oct. 6, 2005 when Luc Robitaille (654) faced Brett Hull (741) in a Coyotes @ Kings contest (1,395 total goals). Robitaille scored his 655th goal in that game.
Selanne (43) and Jagr (41) are the two oldest active players in the NHL.
*historical research courtesy Elias Sports Bureau
Selanne shared his thoughts about facing Jagr after the morning skate.
“It’s awesome,” he said. “It’s great to see the old guys doing well. I played against Jagr since I was 17, so we’ve had a lot of good years together. It’s always been nice competing against him, so it’s very special.”
The question of what it’s going to be like seeing two future Hall-of-Famers in action tonight was presented to both Lovejoy and Perreault.
“I didn’t grow up idolizing Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf,” said Lovejoy, with a laugh. “It’s cool to play with such great players. But everybody in this room grew up idolizing Jaromir Jagr and Teemu Selanne. Saku Koivu is 37 years old and probably grew up idolizing those two guys. That’s how special they are. It’s going to be cool having them both on the ice at the same time.”
“They’re two of the best players to have ever played the game,” said Perreault, who usually centers a line with Selanne on his wing. “It’s special to see that. It’s going to be exciting.”
The Ducks and Devils face each other for the first time tonight since Feb. 17, 2012 (3-2 Ducks shootout loss at Prudential Center), and the first time at Honda Center in over three years (last: Oct. 29, 2010, 2-1 Ducks loss). All-time, Anaheim is 8-13-3 against New Jersey. Saku Koivu leads Anaheim in career scoring vs. New Jersey, collecting 27 points (8g/19a) in 43 contests.