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Preview: Ducks Look to Ground Leaders of Central Division

by Kyle Shohara @kyleshohara /

With six wins in their last nine games (6-3-0) and three of their past four on home ice (3-1-0), the Ducks look to continue their improved play tonight when they host the top dog from the Central Division. (7 p.m. PT, TV: NBCSN, Radio: AM 830).

The Winnipeg Jets are riding a three-game winning streak, have six wins in their past 10 (6-4-0) and sit atop the Central with a 43-25-4 record (90 points) - one point ahead of the Nashville Predators.

Tonight's contest marks the finale of a three-game season series between the Ducks and Jets, which has seen Winnipeg take the first two (both at Bell MTS Place). It opened with a 4-3 Jets overtime victory on Jan. 13 and continued with a 9-3 triumph on Feb. 2. Despite the losses, the Ducks come in with a 17-9-5 all-time record against the Winnipeg/Atlanta franchise, along with an 8-5-2 mark at Honda Center. Ryan Getzlaf leads active Ducks in career scoring vs. the Jets franchise with 16 points (4g/12a) in 20 games. This season, Daniel Sprong (1g/2a) and Carter Rowney (three assists) co-lead Anaheim skaters in scoring vs. Winnipeg.

The Jets have been on a torrid scoring pace in March, co-leading the NHL with 34 goals, and have scored four goals or more in five of their nine games this month. Furthermore, 18 of the 21 skaters that have played for the Jets this month have at least one point. Blake Wheeler leads the pack with 15 points (8g/7a) in March, and has 88 points (20g/68a) overall.

With a well-balanced lineup and speed to burn for days, the Jets pose a unique challenge to their opponents. "They're fast. We know that," said Ducks assistant coach Mark Morrison. "Not much different than the last couple teams we played - Colorado and Florida. They like to stretch the play and get their [defense] up in the rush like a lot of teams like to do in our league. They're exceptionally fast."

This is a good test for the Ducks, who have shown the ability recently to elevate their game against the top-tier teams in the league. "We've proven that we've been good so far playing against the better teams," said Rickard Rakell, who has points in seven of his last nine games (2g/5a). "We're not giving them too many chances. Our problem has been carrying a game against [lower-seeded] teams. We've been successful at frustrating the better teams in the league. It's probably a good test for us because they have such a good team."

Video: The Ducks talk Winnipeg, improved play

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