By Kyle Shohara
Anaheim’s four-game road trip has them in Southern Florida for a matchup against the Panthers tonight at BB&T Center. Following a 3-2 loss two nights ago in Nashville – a game they dominated from the second period on – the Ducks will look to carry over that same level of intensity tonight against a Panthers squad coming off home-and-home victories against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
It’ll be Frederik Andersen’s net tonight for a chance to erase the sting of being pulled for the first time this season after allowing three goals on 10 shots in Tuesday’s game. Andersen (3-6-4, 2.48 GAA, .918 SV%) has allowed two goals or less in nine of his 14 appearances this season. On the opposing end will be veteran netminder Roberto Luongo, who will make his sixth consecutive start. The 36-year-old made 39 saves to earn his 69th career shutout and 407th career win three nights ago against Tampa Bay, tying Glenn Hall for eighth all-time.
Expect defenseman Josh Manson to draw back into the lineup after missing the first two games of this road trip with flu-like symptoms. Manson has one goal (the first of his NHL career) in nine games this season.
Florida has won its last two home games vs. Anaheim, dating back to Nov. 12, 2013. Anaheim’s last victory (2-0) in Sunrise occurred on Feb. 19, 2012.
“They’re a quick team with some firepower,” said Corey Perry. “They’re playing some good hockey. It took us 60 minutes in Anaheim to tie the game. It’s going to be one of those games where we have to be ready in this dressing room. We have to be mentally focused and emotionally involved in the game. If we can play the same way we did in Nashville, we’re going to be OK.”
It was on November 4 against this very club when Perry broke his 11-game scoreless streak to begin the season. The goal was a big one. Scored with six seconds left in regulation, Perry’s first of the season tied the game and sent it to overtime and eventually a shootout, where Jakob Silfverberg scored the lone goal to lead the Ducks to a thrilling 3-2 victory.
A player to keep an eye on tonight (especially in the final minute of regulation if the game is close) is defenseman Aaron Ekblad. In the past two games, the reigning Calder Trophy winner has recorded the game-winning goal (Nov. 16 vs. TBL, 20.2 seconds remaining) and game-tying goal (Nov. 14 at TBL, 38 seconds remaining) in the final minute of regulation, becoming the first player to score a tying or go-ahead goal in the final minute of consecutive games since March 17-19, 2003, when Atlanta Thrashers forward Dany Heatley did so against the Columbus Blue Jackets (19:47 in 3-2 W) and Dallas Stars (19:24 in 5-4 SOL), respectively.
The 19-year-old enters tonight's game on a four-game point streak (3g/1a). Florida holds a 4-0-0 record this season when Ekblad records a goal and a 6-1-0 mark when he records a point.
Ekblad says he and his teammates are well aware of how dangerous Anaheim can be.
“This is a good, fast team that pressures hard on the penalty kill,” he said, regarding Anaheim’s No. 1-ranked PK. “This is one of the best penalty-killing teams in the league. We definitely have our work cut out for us. We know they’re a good team that can score late.”