By Kyle Shohara
The Ducks have an opportunity to put themselves in a great position as they begin the Stanley Cup Playoffs next week. Simply put, a victory in regulation or overtime tonight in the season finale at Arizona will give the Ducks the top seed in the Western Conference and home ice through the first three rounds of the postseason. There are other (more complicated) scenarios that can ensure the No. 1 spot, too, and they are as follows: The Ducks can clinch the West if they defeat the Coyotes in a shootout AND the Blues fail to defeat the Wild in regulation or overtime OR if they get one point against the Coyotes AND the Blues lose to the Wild in any fashion OR if the Blues lose to the Wild in regulation. The Blues host Minnesota today at noon.
Anaheim has dropped two straight games after winning four in a row, and the importance of entering the postseason on a high note has been reiterated inside the locker room. But it isn’t just about getting two points. Rather, the emphasis is playing good, smart hockey for 60 minutes.
“We need to play our game and do the right things out there,” said Matt Beleskey. “Last game [4-0 loss vs. Dallas], you just have to wash that one away. It’s really important for us to play the right way. You want to be on a roll every time you go into the playoffs. That’s what we’re aiming for.”
“I've got to believe the guys want to feel good going into [the playoffs],” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “We know what Arizona's plight is, but it's their last game of the season. We played them in the last game of the season two years ago, and they beat us. We might've had 50 shots on net, but you never can tell when a goalie gets hot."
As confirmed by Boudreau earlier today, Ryan Getzlaf will be in the lineup. The Ducks captain hasn’t played since April 1, sitting out the past two games to rest. Getzlaf ranks tied for fourth among NHL leaders in primary assists (31) and even-strength scoring (21g/32a), and tied for 10th in even-strength assists (32). Twelve of his 24 goals have either tied a game or given the Ducks a lead and six are of the game-winning variety. Getzlaf, who co-leads the NHL in overtime scoring (2g/3a) and ranks tied for fourth in overtime assists, scored his franchise-leading seventh career overtime goal on March 26 at Boston.
“With our schedule as light as it was, it made sense to miss a couple of games and basically have a full week off,” Getzlaf said yesterday. “It was frustrating to watch. Any time you’re out of the lineup and the team is struggling, it’s a hard thing for me to watch. We’ve had a couple of good days of practice now and whatever happens, happens. We just have to go out and play again. It’s not really about the result as much as the effort we put in and the game play we execute.”
If the line combinations used yesterday at practice were any indication, expect Getzlaf to center a line with Jiri Sekac and Corey Perry.
As for who gets the start in net, that question will be answered during pregame warmups because the morning skate was cancelled.
Anaheim and Arizona conclude a five-game season series tonight at Gila River Arena. The Ducks have earned standings points in nine straight games vs. the Coyotes (7-0-2) and own an all-time record of 64-32-18 vs. their Pacific Division rival (28-11-11 in Arizona). The first three games of the season series were decided by one goal (two via shootout) before a 4-1 Ducks win on March 3 in Arizona. Anaheim leads the season series with a 2-0-2 record. Getzlaf leads the Ducks in career scoring vs. Arizona, earning 55 points (16g/39a) in 55 games.