By Kyle Shohara
Tonight poses one of the biggest tests of the season for the Ducks, who take on the highest-scoring team in the NHL. The Dallas Stars enter the game with the most goals of any team this season – 149 – including 49 combined from arguably the most dynamic duo in the league: Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
On the flipside, the Stars meet one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. The Ducks rank fourth overall in terms of goals allowed, having given up 100 through 42 games. (Washington has given up the fewest, 91).
“It’s certainly going to be a challenge,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, who called this game a measuring stick for his club. “You’re taking the highest scoring team and seeing how you fare against them. They’re a team that’s had five days off, so they’re well-rested after a mini slump. They’re going to play their best.”
Frederik Andersen is expected to make his second consecutive start tonight. He was strong in net two nights ago in a 4-1 victory over Ottawa, stopping 24 of 25 shots for his sixth victory of the season (6-8-5).
The Ducks currently sit three points back of San Jose for third place in the Pacific Division with an equal number of games played (42). Directly ahead of Anaheim is the Vancouver Canucks with 44 points in 44 games. The Sharks are idle tonight, but the Canucks face Carolina at 4 p.m. PT.
Anaheim has seemingly turned the corner since the Christmas break, having earned points in seven of nine games (6-2-1) after going 1-3-1 leading into it.
For Dallas, it’s been a dominant season since the start. Dallas ended October with a 9-2-0 mark, improved to 19-5-0 after November and concluded 2015 with a 28-8-3 record. Interestingly enough, the Stars are in the midst of their worst stretch of the season. Dallas is 2-4-1 over the past seven games, including the first multi-game losing streak of the season (Jan. 2-5, 0-2-1).
“We know they’re a great team,” said Hampus Lindholm. “They have so many skilled players who can score from basically nothing. Every guy out there has to be sharp. Our offense is going to come. Over 60 minutes, we’re going to have chances to score. We have to be patient.”
As for limiting the Stars and their team speed, Josh Manson says he and his teammates will look to clog the neutral and force them to retrieve pucks behind the goal line.
Defense leads to offense, as they say, and although the Ducks have had trouble scoring, at the very least it allows for clean exits out of the d-zone.
“Our tracking from the forwards has been better, which allows our defense to have good gaps,” said Manson, referring to the space between the opposing forechecker and the defender. “We’re making them dump pucks. And when they start dumping pucks, and our breakouts are clean, they’re not getting much offensive zone time.”