By Kyle Shohara
The goal for the Ducks is always to win the week. And with four games through Sunday, all on home ice, this week in particular is critical if Anaheim is to make up ground in the standings.
It begins tonight against the Vancouver Canucks, a Pacific Division rival that currently sits above them in the standings. Anaheim (8-11-5, 21 points) enters the game four points back of fourth-place Vancouver (9-8-7, 25 points) and both clubs are 3-4-3 over their past 10 games. The Ducks are coming off a frustrating 3-2 overtime loss against the Chicago Blackhawks in a game that saw the visitors score two unanswered goals in the final two minutes of regulation before ending it in OT. A point was earned, but surely not good enough for a team clawing for every inch in the division and Western Conference. Vancouver, meanwhile, earned a point in a 3-2 shootout loss in Dallas on Friday. The loss was the Canucks’ ninth in a row to the Stars.
“This is a big homestand for us, we’ve got to get some points here,” said defenseman Sami Vatanen. “[Vancouver] is a good team, but we have to play our game. We usually play one good game, and after that it’s been bad. It’s time to play a couple good games in a row and get some points.”
Vatanen and the rest of Anaheim’s defense will have the task of shutting down the Sedin twins, Daniel and Henrik. Now 35 years of age, the Sedins are coming in playing their best hockey of the season. Daniel is currently on a seven-game point streak in which he's earned 12 points (6g/6a) during that span. Daniel leads the team and ranks in the top-10 in the NHL in points (27), goals (11), and assists (16). Henrik is riding a season-high six-game point streak (3g/7a); he also had a five-game streak earlier this season.
“Thirty-five is today’s 27,” joked Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “They’ve always been great players. They may have struggled a little bit offensively last year, but the norm is for them to be in the top-10 in scoring, and that’s where they are.”
Anaheim’s practice yesterday was encouraging on multiple fronts, as goaltender Frederik Andersen, who has been dealing with the flu, practiced in full. The 26-year-old netminder hasn’t played since Nov. 21 at Tampa Bay. “He was pretty sick for about six days,” said Boudreau earlier today. “He’s feeling a little bit stronger than he did yesterday, but he’s still not 100 percent.”
Nate Thompson returned from his two-game conditioning stint with the San Diego Gulls of the American Hockey League. It was the first game action for the 31-year-old center who underwent major shoulder surgery in June. Thompson should be ready by the end of the week, according to Boudreau.
Ducks left wing Jiri Sekac took part in the optional morning skate and also skated by himself yesterday. The 23-year-old suffered a sprained right ankle in the Nov. 1 game vs. Nashville and hasn’t played since. But today was an encouraging sign for the young winger, who appears to be nearing a return to the lineup.
“He said he felt a lot better today,” Boudreau said of Sekac. “We’ll practice tomorrow, and I’m sure he’ll partake. We’ll go from there. He looked fine [today].”
Sekac had a goal and three points in 11 games at the time of his injury.