By Kyle Shohara
Anaheim’s season-long seven-game road trip takes them to the Buckeye State, as tonight the Ducks take on the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. The Ducks, winners of seven of their past eight (7-1-0) and nine of their last 11 (9-2-0), are coming off a strong 4-1 victory over the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday. It was an impressive bounce-back performance following a clunker the night before in Pittsburgh.
Tonight concludes the season series between the Ducks and Blue Jackets. The two clubs opened the season set on Nov. 6 at Honda Center, a 4-2 Anaheim victory. That night, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry led the Ducks with three assists apiece as the club improved to 14-3-0 all-time when both players record three points or more in the same game. The Ducks are 26-19-7 all-time against the Blue Jackets, including a 12-11-2 record at Nationwide Arena.
“We want to make sure we build momentum and play consistently because playing on the road can be tough,” said center Nate Thompson. “We play in some tough buildings. I thought last game we really had a complete game. We came out strong. It's nice to have some cushion being above .500. If we can start that again tonight, it’ll be good for us.”
Reports from the morning skate indicate Frederik Andersen getting the start for Anaheim. Andersen was calm, cool and collected in the win against the Flyers, and made key saves when needed. Andersen has gone 6-0-1 with a 1.57 goals-against average and .943 save percentage in nine games (seven starts) since the holiday break, ranking second in GAA and tied for second in SV% (minimum 400:00 minutes).
He, like the rest of the Ducks, have played their best hockey of the season since the holiday break.
“The biggest thing when we went home for Christmas, I felt like we took a breath and relaxed a little bit,” said Getzlaf, who has eight assists and 10 points in his last seven games. “We came back with the mentality that we were going to buy in defensively. When you do those things, you get in and out of your zone faster. You have a lot more chances to play on offense.”
Though they rest in last place in the eight-team Metropolitan Division, the Blue Jackets (21-28-6, 48 points) have picked up points in six of their last seven games (4-1-2). Columbus is led behind the bench by John Tortorella, who took over head coaching duties on Oct. 21.
“You have to first and foremost match their work ethic,” said defenseman Cam Fowler. “They’re a team that might not be where they would like to be in the standings, but every time we play them it's an extremely close game. They make you earn everything you’re going to get. We have to come in here similar to what we did in Philadelphia in the first couple periods and play an aggressive game. We have to make sure to match their intensity.”
In net for Columbus will be rookie goaltender Joonas Korpisalo, who stopped a season-high 44 shots on Tuesday in a shootout loss to the Islanders. The 21-year-old is still 6-1-2 with a 1.84 GAA and .947 SV% in his last nine starts. Korpisalo is in the cage because of injuries to the Blue Jackets’ top-two netminders Sergei Bobrovsky (groin) and Curtis McElhinney (ankle).
“It’s been a big experience and it's been really fun around here,” said Korpisalo. “I was kind of lost in the first three to four games, but after that I got rolling. Day by day I feel more comfortable with more confidence through the good games. The team is playing really good defense right now so that helps me a lot.”