Consider this a "first" in franchise history, as tonight the Ducks (10-7-3, 23 points) host the expansion Vegas Golden Knights (12-6-1, 25 points) in the first-ever regular season game between these two clubs. This is the opener of a brief two-game homestand for the Ducks, who will host the Winnipeg Jets on Friday afternoon before six consecutive contests on the road.
In addition to riding a season-long three-game winning streak, the Ducks enter tonight's matchup with victories in four of their past five games (4-1-0) and points in six of the past seven (10 points, 4-1-2). Anaheim is also in the midst of playing five games over seven days, its only such stretch this season. So far, the Ducks have gone 2-0.
Corey Perry comes in with points in three straight (six points, 1g/5a) and has eight points over his past five games (1g/7a). The 32-year-old right wing ranks second on the team in scoring with 16 points (4g/12a) and leads the club in assists. Left wing Rickard Rakell also enters tonight's game riding a three-game point streak (four points, 2g/2a) and has 11 points over his past eight games (3g/8a). Rakell paces the Ducks in goals (8) and points (18), and is one game shy of tying his season-high point streak (four games, 1g/6a) set November 3-9.
The Ducks and Golden Knights open a four-game season series with this being one of two held in Anaheim (also December 27). These clubs will meet again in 13 days at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The series finale will take place on Monday, February 19 at T-Mobile Arena. This marks the Ducks' first game against an NHL expansion team (in its inaugural season) since Feb. 25, 2001 vs. the Columbus Blue Jackets. Former Ducks on the Golden Knights roster include forwards William Karlsson and David Perron, and defensemen Shea Theodore, Clayton Stoner (injured) and Luca Sbisa (injured).
"They're a new team that's doing well," said Ducks defenseman Brandon Montour, who has three points in his past two games (1g/2a) and five points in his past six (2g/3a). "They like to skate. Their defense is mobile and they're having some success. They work hard. We have to match that. Every point is huge in this league. We just have to take it game by game, whoever we're playing. Two points is huge. We just have to continue with our growth."
Despite having to dip deep into the well for goaltending help, the Golden Knights haven't really missed a beat since the puck dropped to begin their inaugural season. With a win over the LA Kings on November 19, the Golden Knights became the second team in NHL history to win seven consecutive home games at any point in an inaugural season. They joined the Toronto Arenas, who won eight in a row from Dec. 21, 1917-Feb. 11, 1918. Furthermore, Vegas became the third team in NHL history to hit the 10-win mark within the first 16 games of its first season. Now 20 games into the season, the Golden Knights sit one point back of first-place LA in the Pacific Division despite losing No. 1 goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury four games into the season due to injury. Fleury has not played since October 13. Oscar Dansk suffered a lower-body injury on October 30 and remains on injured reserve. Malcolm Subban, claimed off waivers from Boston on October 3, suffered a lower-body injury on October 21 and was placed on IR after just three starts. The 23-year-old younger brother of Predators defenseman PK Subban was activated off IR on November 17 but has not played since his injury.
"We're going to play against a hockey club that's playing very well right now," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "Playing a very up-tempo game. They have a lot of confidence in what they're doing out there and they've had success. We're going to have our hands full."
Perron leads the Golden Knights in scoring with 17 points (6g/11a), while Karlsson (9g/7a) and Reilly Smith (6g/10a) each have 16 points. Former Predators right wing James Neal leads the club in goals (10) and enters tonight's game with 15 points in 19 games.
Potential Ducks Lineup
Video: The Ducks look at their matchup with Vegas