By Kyle Shohara
Can the Ducks get back on track following a 2-1 setback two nights ago? They really have no choice, especially tonight against a divisional opponent, the San Jose Sharks. Tonight marks the fourth of six consecutive games at Honda Center, and, up to this point, the Ducks have gone 1-1-1. Simply not good enough for a team looking to make up ground in the Pacific.
As of right now, the Ducks (9-12-5, 23 pts) sit five points behind the second-place Sharks (14-10-0, 28 pts) and have played two more games than their Bay Area foes.
“We know where we are in the standings,” said Ryan Kesler. “There’s some history. They’ve had our number for a little bit. We beat them in the last game in their own building. They’re going to be amped up tonight.”
“We know them and they know us,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “It’s a pretty competitive game, usually, when we’re playing these guys. We know they have a great power play and how good they are on the road. We know the importance of this game. It should make for a fun tilt.”
The Ducks have been a team struggling to find consistency all season. In fact, the only time the club put together consecutive victories was during a four-game stretch from Nov. 1-7.
“We look at these as four-point games,” said Kevin Bieksa. “When you’re battling consistency like we are lately, and you’re winning one and losing one, if you’re going to win one, these are the ones you want to win. You want to gain ground in the division. This is a team we’re chasing right now. It’s still early, but you want to bridge the gap as much as possible.
“It’s going to be an emotional game, and we’re a better team when it’s an emotional game and the battle level is up with everybody,” said Bieksa. “We have to respect our opponent, but at the same time, we have to go right at them.”
“The games we’re losing, we’ve had lapses in there where we’re not playing our best hockey,” said Shawn Horcoff. “We’re letting teams come in. We’re not playing hard enough where we can separate and get that two- or three-goal advantage. We’re going to focus on coming out hard, especially early, and really try to get them on defense and playing in their own zone.”
Making his fifth consecutive start, John Gibson enters tonight’s game with a 2-2-1 record, 1.87 goals-against average and .932 save percentage in five appearances this season. Recalled from the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League on Nov. 24, Gibson made his season debut in relief of Anton Khudobin, stopping 19 of 20 shots in a 5-3 Ducks victory later that night.
“He’s a big-game guy, and this is a big game, so hopefully he’ll come to the forefront tonight,” said Boudreau. “We’ve had him parts of the last two years. We know he’s a young man, but we know how good he is.”
Although Frederik Andersen is nearing a return, Anton Khudobin will back up Gibson tonight. Andersen was battling flu symptoms last week, but has been practicing regularly with the club.