By Kyle Shohara
AnaheimDucks.com Morning Skate Photos
After clinching a playoff berth on March 28, the Ducks (50-23-7, 107 points) can go one step further tonight in their regular season home finale vs. the Dallas Stars. A victory in regulation or overtime would lock up the top seed in the Western Conference and guarantee home ice through the first three rounds of the postseason. The New York Rangers will win the Presidents’ Trophy, but that’s fine with Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau, who last month said he cared “not one iota” about finishing with the best record in the National Hockey League.
“I've won the Presidents' Trophy before, and it got me nowhere,” he said in mid-March. “A week after you win it, or three days after you win it, no one cares because the playoffs start. It means nothing. We want to end up as high as we can, but if we can't end up with that, we don't care. We're looking to see that our group is ready for the playoffs. That's what we're looking for.”
After a players-only meeting was held last month following two consecutive losses, the Ducks went on to win four of the next five games (4-1-0). Overall, the Ducks have gone 8-3-0 in the last 11 and 15-7-0 in the last 22. Anaheim owns the second-most wins through 80 games in club history, trailing only the 2013-14 club (52-20-8, 112 points). They’ll need to be ready for what could possibly be a first round matchup with the red-hot Winnipeg Jets.
Forwards Matt Beleskey and Tim Jackman took line rushes this morning and both are likely to play. Beleskey (lower body) has missed three consecutive games, and Jackman hasn’t played since suffering a lower-body injury on March 1 at Dallas when he collided awkwardly with Stars forward Ales Hemsky. Beleskey, who has set career highs in goals (22), points (32), power-play goals (4) and game-winning goals (8), skated on a line with Ryan Kesler and Kyle Palmieri. Beleskey also has the third-highest plus-minus rating (+15) on the team.
“I felt good out there today, and the last few days of practice,” Beleskey said. “I’m excited for tonight. I want be ready to go. A couple of days of rest have really helped me be ready for tonight. I want to play that hard-working game, get on the body, get some shots, get to the net and hopefully put a few in there.”
Although not as prolific of a goal scorer as Beleskey, Jackman’s five goals this season are the most since his career-best 10-goal campaign in 2010-11 with Calgary. Jackman skated with Patrick Maroon and Nate Thompson.
“I’ll have a lot of adrenaline and excitement, and probably a little bit of nerves,” Jackman said, having missed the past 16 games. “I’m just looking forward to trying to find my game as fast as I can, and help out the team.”
His month-long recovery allowed him to be around his wife as the couple welcomed their first child, a son named James Robert Jackman, born on March 9. “I got to help out as much as I could, but I didn’t really know what I was doing,” he said with a smile. “My wife stays up with him most of the time. He looks for her.”
POTENTIAL LINE COMBINATIONS
Ryan Getzlaf did not take part in the morning skate, so Rickard Rakell took his spot on the top line with Jiri Sekac and Corey Perry. Rakell filled in for Getzlaf last Friday vs. Colorado, as the captain used that night to rest. Along with Beleskey and Jackman returning, defenseman Clayton Stoner could also draw back into the lineup. Stoner has missed three consecutive games with a lower-body injury.
Jiri Sekac-Rickard Rakell-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Ryan Kesler-Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano-Nate Thompson-Jakob Silfverberg
Patrick Maroon-Chris Wagner-Tim Jackman
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler-Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner-Sami Vatanen
FAN APPRECIATION NIGHT
A variety of prizes and giveaways will highlight the club’s final home game of the regular season. Upon entry, all fans in attendance will receive a 2014-15 Anaheim Ducks team photo presented by FOX Sports Prime Ticket. Fans are eligible to win a variety of prizes throughout the evening chosen at random, while one lucky fan will win a 2015 Honda CR-V. Continuing a Ducks tradition, a group of fans will also be invited onto the ice for a “Jersey off Their Backs” presentation at the end of the game.
More information regarding Fan Appreciation Night can be found here.