The Ducks conclude their three-game homestand against Eastern Conference foes tonight when they take on one of the league’s Original Six teams, the Boston Bruins. There will be a familiar face – and number – in black tonight, as former Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey makes his return to Honda Center for the first time since signing with the Bruins as a free agent on July 1.
Beleskey is having himself a career season in Boston, having already established personal bests in assists (20) and points (33) through 69 games. Tonight marks his 399th career NHL game, 329 of which came in a Ducks sweater. Expect to see him on the Bruins’ third line with Ryan Spooner and Jimmy Hayes.
The Bruins enter tonight's game with the third-most goals in the NHL (211) and the third-highest goals-per-game average among all 30 teams (2.97). Boston is led by center Patrice Bergeron (28-33—61 points) and 54-point players Brad Marchand (34-20—54), David Krejci (15-39—54) and Loui Eriksson (27-27—54).
“Boston is a physical, up-tempo team that plays a similar style,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. “We’re going to have to be patient. Boston is a team with a lot of scoring threats that we’re going to have to pay attention to. We’re going to have to keep off their power play.”
Frederik Andersen is expected to get the start in net for Anaheim. Although Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau has been rotating Andersen and John Gibson every third game, Gibson did not practice yesterday because of illness. He skated this morning, however, and Boudreau said Gibson feels good enough to play. Nevertheless, he’ll back up Andersen tonight.
Gibson stopped 21 of 23 shots in Anaheim’s 2-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Wednesday. Andersen, meanwhile, enters the game with a league-leading 1.86 goals-against average (min. 15 games) and ranks third in save percentage (.932) since Christmas. The 26-year-old has also won 14 of his past 16 decisions (14-1-1) and sports a 19-9-6 record in 38 appearances overall this season.
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa is also likely to draw back into the lineup after missing the past two games with a lower-body injury, as long as there are no setbacks from now until the game, per Boudreau. Bieksa has 4-10—14 points in 67 games this season.
The Bruins are in the midst of a three-game California swing that began with a 3-2 loss in San Jose on Tuesday. Boston enters tonight's game in second place in the Atlantic Division, three points back of first-place Florida and one point up on third-place Tampa Bay. The Bruins, however, are only two points ahead of Pittsburgh, which currently holds the first wild card position with a game in-hand.
Boston enters tonight’s contest with an impressive 23-8-3 road record, which places them second among all teams in overall points earned (49), and its goal differential away from TD Garden is a staggering +36. Furthermore, the Bruins' 112 road goals are second only to San Jose's 115, and the Bruins have played four fewer road games than the Sharks.
“I have to believe they’re going to come out, like the Rangers did, and play as good a game as they can possibly play,” said Boudreau. “They’ve proven they can be the No. 1 seed coming out of the Atlantic. And with [Bruins head coach] Claude [Julien], who’s very structured, they play the same way all the time. They’re very patient. It’s going to be a tough game.”