By Kyle Shohara
Fresh off a satisfying 4-2 victory over the LA Kings last night, the Ducks are right back at it tonight against a team directly beneath them in the standings. It wasn’t until earlier this week that the Ducks leapfrogged the Arizona Coyotes for third place in the Pacific Division. Two huge points are at stake for both teams, but especially for Anaheim, which has 55 points to Arizona’s 54, with two games in hand.
Because both teams played last night (Arizona lost in overtime at home against Chicago), neither team held morning skates. Don’t bank on any lineup changes for Anaheim, which comes into the game with wins in five straight, seven of its last eight (7-1-0) and 12 of the past 16 (12-3-1).
Frederik Andersen is expected to get the start for the Ducks. The 26-year-old is coming off a 30-save performance in the club’s 3-2 victory over the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Andersen has allowed two goals or less in 18 of his 25 appearances.
“It’s big to continue playing the way we have lately,” said Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa. “We’ve won some big games against good teams. This is a team we haven’t had success against this year, and still a team we’re battling for a playoff spot with. There’s a good chance we can play them in the playoffs.”
The Coyotes have won the first three games of the season series, two of which have come on Honda Center ice, and have outscored the Ducks 12-5. Eight of those 12 goals were scored by rookies Max Domi (3) and Anthony Duclair (5), the latter of whom recorded his first career hat trick in the first meeting of the season – a 4-0 victory for Arizona on Oct. 14.
“It was a shock,” Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau admitted. “We weren’t playing as good as we can, but at the same time, we didn’t know anything about Domi and Duclair. We didn’t know Tobias Rieder. We know about Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Martin Hanzal and Antoine Vermette. Some of these guys we didn’t know. We were quickly shown how good these players are.
“We know they’re for real. We know they can skate as good as any team in the National Hockey League. They play very solid defense and when they get good goaltending, they’re a difficult team to handle.”
Boudreau went so far as to call it, “the biggest game of the year” this morning.
“Against LA, we’re always getting up for it, and that’s fine, but this team has come in here and kicked our butt three times,” he said. “We’re one point ahead of them. They know what it means and we know what it means.”
Forward Andrew Cogliano said of the Coyotes, “They’re built on speed and transition. They’ve been able to dominate us in a lot of respects. They bring a different aspect than LA. We need to make it tougher on them. They’ve had some games, especially here, where, offensively, they’ve been too much for us because we’ve wanted to play that offensive run-and-gun game. That’s not us. We have to focus on playing defensive hockey against a good offensive team.
“We need to finish this week off right. This is a big game for us because these are three tough, important games. This is big for us.”
PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
David Perron – Ryan Getzlaf – Chris Stewart
Andrew Cogliano – Ryan Kesler – Jakob Silfverberg
Patrick Maroon – Rickard Rakell – Corey Perry
Ryan Garbutt – Nate Thompson – Mike Santorelli
Cam Fowler – Kevin Bieksa
Hampus Lindholm – Josh Manson
Simon Despres – Sami Vatanen