By Kyle Shohara
What a difference a week makes. When the Ducks awoke last Monday, they were fresh off a 4-2 victory vs. the Nashville Predators the night before. The win snapped a five-game losing streak and was just their second victory in 11 games. Fast forward to present day – Anaheim enters tonight’s game winners of four straight as it opens a three-game homestand against the Arizona Coyotes.
The Ducks (5-7-2, 12 points) currently sit two points behind idle San Jose for third place in the Pacific Division and can leap-frog the Coyotes (6-6-1, 13 points) with a win tonight.
All indications point to Frederik Andersen getting his eighth start in the past nine games. Andersen enters tonight's game ranked ninth among NHL goaltenders in goals-against average (2.03) and seventh in save percentage (.935%). Andersen has allowed two goals or less in nine of his 11 appearances this season.
Anders Lindback will get the start for the Coyotes. Lindback made 12 saves after Mike Smith was pulled in the second period of a 4-1 loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday. “Lindback played well the back half of [the game Saturday],” said Coyotes head coach Dave Tippett, “so that's the way we're going to go.” Defenseman Nicklas Grossmann is questionable after sustaining a lower-body injury Saturday and center Antoine Vermette (lower body) is likely to miss his fourth straight game.
The first meeting of the season between these two clubs didn’t go the way Anaheim envisioned; not even close. Arizona jumped all over them from puck drop and the team’s dynamic 20-year-olds Max Domi and Anthony Duclair (first career NHL hat trick) combined for all four goals in a 4-0 victory. In the words of Andrew Cogliano earlier today, the Ducks were “embarrassed” in that game. “They pretty much controlled the game with their speed,” he said. “We need to negate that through the neutral zone and get on the forecheck. That’s the one important thing we need to be doing. Tonight, we’ll hopefully make it difficult on them and make them play defense.”
Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said his team didn’t give the Coyotes enough respect in that game, and in turn, got burned.
“We weren’t very good from all aspects, from the goalie out,” Boudreau said. “Hopefully it was an eye opener and we have a lot better of a game. We respect them.”
Defenseman Kevin Bieksa says when it comes to speed teams like the Coyotes, the Ducks need to place an emphasis on neutral zone gaps, or, in other words, limiting the amount of space between themselves and the oncoming forecheckers.
“With the speed game, as defensemen, we focus on our gaps, and they’ve been a lot better lately,” he said. “We’re tighter in the neutral zone and we’re not giving them as much space. Last time we played them, we were still trying to figure out our neutral zone. We were giving them way too much space. When you give good players space, they’re going to wind it up and come in with speed. Our gaps in the neutral zone, especially, are going to be key tonight.”