By Kyle Shohara
Yesterday was more than just Halloween. It also marked the final day in a dreadful month of October for the Ducks – one that saw the team win once in 10 games (1-7-2, 4 points). So as the calendar turns its page to November, the Ducks have a clean slate and a chance to climb out of depths of the NHL standings.
The Ducks need to start stringing wins together, and they need to do so in a hurry. Although tonight marks game No. 11 of 82, the Ducks currently find themselves seven points out of third place (Arizona) in the Pacific Division and 11 points back of the wild card. Far too early to talk about playoffs, sure, but points earned (or lost) now could have big-time implications come April.
Tonight they face a familiar foe, one that embarrassed them a week and a half ago at Bridgestone Arena in Nashville. That night – the first of a five-game gauntlet through the Central Division – ended up turning into a 5-1 loss for Anaheim that set the tone for the remainder of trip. Though Anaheim improved its play in the final three games, the net result was a single point (1-0 OT loss at Chicago).
Yesterday, the players inside the locker room said this is a different Ducks team than the one that got worked over on October 22 in the Music City.
“We didn’t get the results the last three games, but we felt we played better hockey,” said veteran center Shawn Horcoff, referring to games against Chicago, Dallas and St. Louis. “Those were three pretty good teams we played against. You have to give them some credit, but there were times during those games when we were really able to play the type of hockey we need to play to be successful. For us, it’s a matter of putting 60 minutes together. We know it’s going to turn one of these days.”
Defenseman Sami Vatanen says the he’s positive the Ducks will turn things around.
“We’re moving forward, going on the right track,” he said. “It’s going to be better. We didn’t play very well over there. We’re hopeful we’ll get the bounce. We will be getting the bounce at some point, that’s for sure. We just have to keep grinding. We can’t just sit here and be sad every time. The game will come.”
Nashville (7-1-2, 16 points) comes into tonight’s game still feeling the sting of a 4-3 overtime loss at Staples Center yesterday afternoon against the LA Kings. After giving up a 2-1 lead early in the third period, the Predators fell behind 3-2 before defenseman Ryan Ellis tied the game with 6:04 remaining in regulation.
The game went to overtime, where the Predators experienced something similar to what the Ducks felt in their loss at St. Louis on Thursday. Remember their botched 4-on-2 that led to a 2-on-0 the other way with Vladimir Tarasenko scoring the game-tying goal? Well, the Predators came down on a 3-on-1 with defenseman Drew Doughty serving as the lone man back for the Kings. After he deflected Mike Fisher’s cross-ice pass with the shaft of his stick, he sent a breakout pass to a streaking Jeff Carter, who went in all alone on Pekka Rinne. And as Carter always seems to do, the veteran sniper out-waited Rinne and went top corner with 17.4 seconds remaining to win it for LA.
The Predators fell one win short of matching their best 10-game start (2005-06).
“We’re glad to be home to play them because we know they’re a good team,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “At least we’ve had – and it goes for them, too – but they’ve seen how we play. We can play a lot better than we played in Nashville. It’s going to be a good test.”
Look for a physical brand of hockey tonight, much like what fans have grown accustomed to seeing from the Ducks over the years.
“We want to get back to that because that’s the way we play,” said Boudreau. “Would it be better against a big team like Nashville? I think it would be. We will talk about it.”