By Kyle Shohara
Perched high above the Pacific Division standings, the Ducks face yet another opponent trying to fight for every inch in the ultra-competitive Western Conference playoff race.
Tonight is the second game of a three-game road trip for Anaheim and the final scheduled meeting in Calgary this season. So far, the Ducks are 3-0-1 vs. the Flames in the first four contests of the season, having won the last three consecutive games. The season series has featured a pair of 6-3 Anaheim victories on Feb. 20 and Jan. 21, and a 3-2 Ducks win on Nov. 25 at Honda Center. Calgary’s lone victory came on Nov. 18 at Scotiabank Saddledome, a 4-3 triumph in the shootout.
Calgary will be without All-Star defenseman (and Flames captain) Mark Giordano, who is out for the remainder of the season following biceps tendon surgery.
“The Flames are really fighting, but losing their defenseman, they’ve really stepped it up,” said Corey Perry, who has a goal and four points in four games vs. Calgary this season. “Everyone is playing together. It’s going to be tough.”
The Flames have gone 3-1-1 since Giordano’s injury, all of which were during a season-long seven-game road trip. As of right now, the Flames are in a playoff spot, but just barely, as their 77 points are good for third in the division, but tied with the Kings, who are on the outside looking in. Calgary, however, owns the tiebreaker.
“They’re a quick-strike team that can stretch out the neutral zone,” said defenseman Clayton Stoner. “If you get caught sleeping out there, they’ll capitalize. We’ve played them well this year, so we just need to keep building.”
On the flipside, Flames head coach Bob Hartley acknowledges the challenge facing them tonight. “If you try to find weaknesses on that team, you better wake up early in the morning,” he said after Calgary’s morning skate. “We've never had an easy game against these guys and I don't think we ever will.”
Anaheim’s lineup tonight should mirror the one used two nights ago in the club’s 2-1 loss at Vancouver. Not expected to play are Matt Beleskey (upper body) and Sami Vatanen (lower body), though both are continuing to practice with the team. It remains to be seen if Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau opts to use Perry on a line with Rickard Rakell and Jiri Sekac, a newly created trio that saw time in Monday’s game.
“Since the trade deadline, we’ve moved everybody around,” said Boudreau. “Whether the word is ‘chemistry’ or the right fit, we’d like to get everybody in a position of knowing where they’re going to be.”
John Gibson was the first off the ice this morning at Scotiabank Saddledome and is expected to start in net after Frederik Andersen has been called upon for the previous two. Last week, Boudreau said the plan was to alternate goaltenders at least until April because of the amount of games this month.
Karri Ramo will start in net for the Flames.
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Patrick Maroon-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Tomas Fleischmann-Ryan Kesler-Kyle Palmieri
Andrew Cogliano-Rickard Rakell-Jakob Silfverberg
Emerson Etem-Nate Thompson-Jiri Sekac
Cam Fowler-Simon Despres
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Clayton Stoner-James Wisniewski