By Kyle Shohara
If Monday’s game was a crash-course reminder of the importance of playing 60 minutes, and yesterday’s practice served as the study session, tonight, then, is the big exam. The Ducks let an extra point slip away two nights ago to a team directly above them in the standings when they dropped a 4-3 decision to the Arizona Coyotes in overtime.
This is a game the Ducks (5-7-3, 13 points) need to take care of. The Edmonton Oilers (5-10-0, 10 points) enter tonight’s contest having lost two in a row, three of the past four and six of their past eight. Anaheim, meanwhile, comes in with victories in four of the past five and points in five in the past six. Though the Ducks still aren’t playing their best hockey – even over this recent stretch of games – this is a game in which anything less than two points is not good enough.
“We addressed it in the room, and we have to make sure it doesn’t happen again,” said right wing Jakob Silfverberg, referring to the dreaded second periods that have plagued the Ducks this season. “It has to be a lesson learned. If we keep doing that, we’re not going to win any games.”
“We can’t let those things, like overtime losses, really drown you,” said Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf. “We’ve been playing some good hockey as of late. We have to get better.”
First off the ice for the Ducks was Frederik Andersen, so expect the big Dane to get the nod in net for a second consecutive game. Andersen currently ranks 10th among NHL leaders in save percentage (.929) and has allowed two goals or less in nine of his 12 appearances.
Rickard Rakell didn’t reveal much regarding his status for tonight’s game, only offering a few tidbits to reporters shortly after the morning skate. “I feel good, felt good yesterday and today was a good day,” he said. “We’ll see what the coaches say.”
Head coach Bruce Boudreau says Rakell is “questionable” – the same answer he gave to reporters yesterday. “It’s one of those game-time decision-type deals,” he said. “He’s getting better. Hopefully if it’s not tonight, it’s really soon.”
Rakell has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury, but practiced yesterday and took part in the optional skate this morning. He has two goals and four points in 12 games this season.
It was like old times for Shawn Horcoff earlier today inside the Ducks locker room. The veteran centerman was met by old friends and reporters, many of whom covered him on a daily basis in Edmonton.
Horcoff, now, 37, called Edmonton home for more than a decade after the Oilers drafted him in the fourth round (99th overall) way back in the 1998 NHL Draft. He helped lead Edmonton to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup Final against Carolina, recording playoff career bests in goals (7), assists (12), points (19) and games played (24).
“Any time you spend 13 years in an organization, it’s going to be a little bit emotional,” said Horcoff, who captained the Oilers in his last three seasons with the team. “My kids grew up there and I called it home for a long time. I owe them a lot for helping me jumpstart my career. I really enjoy playing these games.”
As for the Ducks, Horcoff says he likes what he sees when the team is firing on all cylinders.
“The good news for us is when we’re playing at the top of our game, we’re really controlling and dominating hockey games,” Horcoff said. “For the Arizona game, there was probably a six-to-eight minute stretch where there was a big let-up in our game. We allowed them to get back into it. Good battle back, but in games like that, especially with the way we came out in the first [period], you need go come away with two points.”
The Ducks won’t see Connor McDavid tonight and there’s a good chance they won’t face him on New Year’s Eve at Rexall Place. The 18-year-old phenom is recovering from a broken left clavicle that was repaired last Wednesday. As one of the most talked about players in recent memory, McDavid is considered a generational talent by many.
“For the game of hockey, I’m sad he’s out,” Boudreau said yesterday. “Great young talents like that don’t come around every day. The game of hockey itself misses him.”
“Missing McDavid was a big blow for them, not even for their team, but for the league, as such an exciting player,” said Horcoff. “He was really coming into his own. Regardless, they’re a team that’s starting to do the right thing.”
Silfverberg adds, “It would’ve been fun to see him. He’s a great player. If he’s not playing, that’s probably good for us. [Laughs]. There’s a lot of hype. I’m sure he’s great.”
MILITARY APPRECIATION NIGHT
Tonight the Ducks will honor the United States Armed Forces by hosting Military Appreciation Night presented by Pacific Premier Bank. All fans in attendance will receive an American Flag courtesy of Pacific Premier Bank. This special game night will pay tribute to local military members and their families as well as raise awareness for local military nonprofit organizations, Defending the Blue Line and Veterans First.
Ducks players will be wearing camouflage jerseys during the pre-game warm-up for Military Appreciation Night. Following the game, the jerseys will be autographed and made available in an online auction at AnaheimDucks.com/auction.