By Kyle Shohara
After waiting nearly the entire week, the Ducks finally get back into game action tonight against the Carolina Hurricanes at Honda Center. Tonight concludes the season series between the two clubs, with Anaheim taking the first game by a 4-1 score on Nov. 16 at PNC Arena.
Ducks fans should savor tonight’s game, for the club won’t play again until next Thursday in Buffalo.
“Tonight’s game is important for us to come out and give a good effort,” said Shawn Horcoff. “Our biggest key, and it’s still early for us to look at the standings, is playing good hockey. We want to build a good system and foundation of the type of game we need to play in order to be able to put together a good run of games that will move us up in the standings. We’ve done that as of late with some good hockey.”
A win tonight would give the fifth-place Ducks 29 points and put them in a tie for third place with the San Jose Sharks in the Pacific Division. The Arizona Coyotes also have 27 points and host the Minnesota Wild tonight.
First off the ice this morning was John Gibson, who will make his seventh consecutive start for the Ducks. Gibson, of course, was the NHL’s First Star of the Week for the week ending Dec. 6. The 22-year-old is 3-1-0 with a 0.76 goals-against average, .968 save percentage and two shutouts in his past four games. Frederik Andersen will serve as backup.
“With John playing the way he is, and us needing wins, he’ll be in tonight,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, who went on to say he expects Andersen to play at some point during the upcoming road trip.
Boudreau says his team can’t afford to be lackadaisical in the opening 20 against a team that gave up four unanswered goals in the first period on Tuesday. [More below].
“You know darn well they’ll be ready in the first period with what happened in the last game,” he said. “We have to come out of the gate and be ready for them.”
The Hurricanes are coming off a barnburner of a game that saw them erase a 5-1 deficit with four unanswered goals in the third period before giving up the game-winner on the penalty kill with 19 seconds remaining against the Dallas Stars. Eleven different Canes registered at least one point in the 7-6 loss on Tuesday, with Victor Rask’s three-point effort (all assists) leading the way.
Tonight marks the second of a four-game road trip for Carolina, which plays in Arizona tomorrow and at Philadelphia on Dec. 15.
It’s not too often you see a defenseman leading a team in scoring, but that’s what you get with Justin Faulk. With 11 goals (all with the man advantage) and 21 points in 28 games, Faulk leads all NHL players in power-play goals, and now has the most PPGs by a Hurricanes defenseman (since relocation) in a season, previously held by Anton Babchuk.
Faulk, 23, ranks second in Carolina franchise history in power-play goals by a defenseman in a season, behind Risto Siltanen’s 12 in 1983-84.