By Kyle Shohara
It’s hard to believe, but tonight already marks the halfway point of the season for the Ducks. Anaheim enters the game with a 17-16-7 mark and 41 points through 40 games. One point back of third place in the Pacific Division, the Ducks have posted a 5-1-1 record since the Christmas break and are 5-2-0 in their last seven home games.
Tonight they welcome a once-familiar foe both in the regular season and playoffs. The Ducks and Detroit Red Wings have faced each other 79 times since Anaheim’s inaugural 1993-94 season and have battled in six different playoff series. The Red Wings moved to the Atlantic Division of the Eastern Conference for the 2013-14 season.
No longer under long-time head coach Mike Babcock, the Wings are guided by first-year man Jeff Blashill. Prior to his current post, the 41-year-old served as head coach of Detroit's AHL affiliate Grand Rapids Griffins, highlighted by a 2012-13 season that saw the Griffins capture the first Calder Cup championship in the franchise’s 17-year history.
The Red Wings are flying high on their current six-game road trip, having won the first three away from Joe Louis Arena. With a 21-13-7 record good for 49 points, Detroit enters the game tied with the Montreal Canadiens for second place in the Atlantic. The Red Wings have limited their opponents to four goals overall in the past three games (Buffalo, New Jersey, San Jose) and have scored seven during that span.
“They’ve always been a good team,” said Andrew Cogliano. “They want to play with the puck and play skilled. We need to be good defensively and continue to play that hard defensive game that we’ve done the past eight or nine games. If we do that, we’ll make it hard on their skilled players.”
It's interesting to note that the Red Wings are far better on the power play on the road than at home. Detroit is seventh overall in terms of road power-play percentage (22.6%), but tied for 26th at home (14.5%).
Anaheim has successfully killed off 23 consecutive shorthanded opportunities, but the league’s best penalty kill will have its hands full tonight if sent to the box.
“They’re a fast team that can skate and move the puck,” said Nate Thompson. “They’ve obviously got some really good skill up front. We definitely have to make sure we stay out of the penalty box because they move the puck really well.”
With no morning skate, Ducks line combinations and starting goaltender remain to be seen. For what it’s worth, Frederik Andersen went through a rigorous practice yesterday. Andersen's most recent appearance was in relief of John Gibson on Jan. 6 vs. Toronto, and his last start came on Jan. 1 at Vancouver.
As for the Red Wings, yesterday Blashill confirmed he’ll dress the same lineup as the one used in Thursday’s victory at San Jose. Petr Mrazek will make his fifth straight start. In three starts in 2016, Mrazek is 3-0-0 with a 1.34 goals-against average, .957 save percentage and one shutout.