By Kyle Shohara
After coming out of Calgary with a 1-0 victory, effectively ending the Flames’ franchise-best 11-game home winning streak, the Ducks close out the calendar year in Edmonton with a chance to make it three wins in a row.
While their past two victories weren’t necessarily done in dominating fashion (Anaheim defeated Philadelphia last Sunday, 4-2), they were steps in the right direction for a team clawing for consistency. Both games were marked by strong starts and steady second and third periods, staunch penalty killing (which they’ve done all year) and timely saves.
“It speaks to the volume of the importance of these games,” said Andrew Cogliano. “We’re at a stage now in the season, and in the standings, where we need to be prepared for every period. We need to win. Guys have played better and have realized the importance of every period. That’s what it comes down to.
“These games are very important for us. The starts of every period are very important. Guys are a little bit sharper, and it seems like it’s working out for us.”
“I can really feel the sense of urgency and the more seriousness of the players at game time when we’re playing a division rival,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “You get up more for those games.”
John Gibson will get his fourth consecutive start in net. The 22-year-old earned his third shutout of the season two nights ago (fifth of his career), and has gone 6-4-2 with a 1.81 GAA and .926 SV% in his 13 appearances with Anaheim this season, including his first two shutouts on Nov. 30 vs. Vancouver and Dec. 4 vs. San Jose. Since being recalled from San Diego (AHL) on Nov. 24, Gibson co-leads NHL goaltenders in shutouts, ranks third in GAA (min. 10 games) and tied for 10th in SV%.
Cam Talbot will get the start for Edmonton. The 28-year-old is 5-10-2 with a 3.03 GAA and .902 SV% in 19 games this season, but has a career mark of 38-25-7 in 76 appearances.
Tonight’s game marks the second of five meetings this season between the two clubs and the first of three in Edmonton. The Ducks have taken seven of the previous 10 against the Oilers, though Edmonton took the first game of the season series on Nov. 11 at Honda Center, a 4-3 OT victory.
“It was a very competitive game in their building,” said Oilers head coach Todd McLellan. “They’re a good team. They’re well-coached and well-managed. They’re going to be there in the end. In some sense, the way they’ve played over the last few nights, that might be a good thing for that team. They’re a top-10 hockey club. They’ll get there.”
Shea Theodore skated 15:45 TOI in his NHL debut in Calgary and had the honor of leading the team out for pregame warmups all by himself. It was an unofficial “Welcome to the NHL” moment for the 20-year-old defenseman, who was paired with Clayton Stoner throughout the game. Theodore also saw time on the club’s top power-play unit, and is expected to play tonight against the Oilers.
“I’ll be a little bit used to the ice here [in Edmonton] because I’ve played here twice and in Calgary twice when I was in juniors,” said Theodore, who spent parts of five seasons with Seattle of the Western Hockey League. Theodore was named the WHL’s Defenseman of the Year for the 2014-15 season.
“It’s good to be in Canada playing your first couple of games,” said Theodore, a native of Langley, British Columbia. “That brings it to another level. It’s definitely exciting.”