By Kyle Shohara
Anaheim’s road trip up to this point can be summed up in one word: consistent.
Players and coaches alike always preach the importance of playing “60-minute hockey,” and although the Ducks didn’t come away with a much-deserved victory on Tuesday in Nashville, their effort carried over into Thursday’s 3-1 victory against the Florida Panthers. The road trip started with a 4-1 win over Carolina and can end with another ‘W’ tonight against the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
But if they are to come out victorious tonight, they’ll do so without the services of defenseman Hampus Lindholm, who suffered an apparent upper-body injury early in the Florida game, as first reported by Eric Stephens of the Orange County Register. Lindholm is considered day to day. Korbinian Holzer, a healthy scratch against the Panthers, will likely draw back in.
As for tonight’s goaltenders, it’ll be Frederik Andersen for Anaheim and Ben Bishop for Tampa Bay.
Andersen has allowed two goals or less in 10 of his 15 appearances, including a 24-save effort in Thursday’s victory. Bishop, meanwhile, has won two of his last three starts following Thursday's 2-1 triumph over the New York Rangers. The 6-foot-7 behemoth has allowed just one goal in three of his last four starts and has given up two goals or less in seven of his last eight starts.
Oddly enough, the Lightning – like the Ducks – hasn’t gotten off to the start it expected. Tampa Bay enters tonight’s game with a 9-9-3 record (21 points) in 21 games, good for 4th in the Atlantic Division and 9th in the East. Anaheim, meanwhile, comes in with a 7-9-4 mark (18 points) placing them 5th in the Pacific and 11th in the West. Both teams are trending in the right direction as of late, so players – and coaches – on both sides expect a good one tonight.
“Whether their record is 9-9 or 18-1, we know [Tampa Bay] is the best team in the East right along with the Rangers,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “It’s going to be a real learning experience for us. They kicked our butts twice last year. We’re well aware of their capabilities. We just want to play the right way. If we play the right way and the way we're capable of playing, usually shifts add up. I think the last two games had been a byproduct of us playing hard and playing the right way."
Defenseman Cam Fowler adds, “I thought it started in Carolina. We put a good effort in against a fast team and we were able to hold them to not many opportunities on goal, which is great. Then we played a tough game in Nashville on the end of a back-to-back against a good hockey team. We didn't get the result we wanted, but we thought the effort was there. Our style of hockey was there and we were able to carry that into Florida.
“So you see the signs that are there, but there is still consistency we're looking for,” said Fowler. “It's just three games. You’re going to have an off-night once in a while, but you should be able to put 10 to 15 games together like that. You can live with the results when you’re playing the type of hockey you want to play.”
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper says he knows the Ducks are coming in feeling confident about their game.
“I think, much like the Rangers, who came in playing extremely well after having won nine straight, Anaheim is probably playing its best hockey of the season,” Cooper said. “They had 40-plus shots in their last couple of games. I don't think their Nashville game turned out the way they wanted, but they probably deserved a better fate.
“Unfortunately, we’re catching them at their best right now, but they’re catching us when we’re playing fairly well ourselves. Two teams that a lot of people have had high expectations coming into the year. Both coaching staffs are probably looking at their records saying we'd like to be better than where we are.”
Cooper says alternate captain Ryan Callahan (lower body) is a game-time decision. The 30-year-old didn’t play against his former team (Rangers) on Thursday, but practiced yesterday. Callahan had a goal and two points in the two games played against Anaheim last season.
Keep an eye on Lightning captain Steven Stamkos tonight. Although he was held without a point Thursday, Stamkos continues to pace the Lightning in goals (9) and scoring (14). The 25-year-old ranks tied for 10th in the NHL for goals. Eight of his nine goals have come with the Lightning tied (5) or trailing (3).
Random fact: The Ducks haven’t beaten the Lightning in regulation since the 2006-07 season (4-3 W, Dec. 9, 2006 at Tampa Bay). The only two players remaining on either team since that game are Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.