Sometimes, the NHL schedule works in mysterious ways. Nine days after the Ducks came away with a 3-1 victory at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Arizona, they find themselves back in the Grand Canyon State tonight to wrap up a five-game season series with the Coyotes. The Ducks return to the desert feeling good about their game, with wins in three of their past five (3-2-0) and 19 goals over that span.
Their place in the standings (14th in the Western Conference) is what it is, but that isn't stopping them from playing for one another. "We're competitive people, so we want to make sure we're playing as well as we can no matter what time of year and no matter what kind of circumstances," said defenseman Cam Fowler. "We've been doing that here recently. We're continuing to play for one another, which is the No. 1 makeup of a team. Now we're starting to get some results."
The coaching staff is also making it a point to play the game the right way, no matter the circumstances. Over the past week-and-a-half, the Ducks have earned wins against teams either in a playoff position or right on the cusp. Despite nearly blowing a three-goal lead on Tuesday night, the Ducks held on for a 3-2 win over the Nashville Predators. "We want to be competitive in every game," said assistant coach Mark Morrison. "We want to win. But more importantly, we want to play the right way. We want to do all the things it takes to win a hockey game. That's getting pucks deep and limiting your turnovers. Playing sound, defensive hockey. That's what we've done, and we're getting better at it."
This is a pivotal game for the Coyotes, who enter tonight's matchup in a playoff spot (second wild card) thanks to an 8-2-0 mark over their last 10. With 75 points, the Coyotes are one point ahead of the Minnesota Wild and two points behind the Dallas Stars for the first wild card. They posted a 3-1 victory in St. Louis on Tuesday, a night after suffering a 7-1 loss in Chicago. The Coyotes have gone 3-1-0 in the four games since their loss to the Ducks on March 5.
"We've been battling really hard to get where we're at," captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said on the team's official website. "Hopefully we can keep going and keep staying at that wildcard spot. That's what we're focused on right now. We don't look at the other teams. We need to focus on what we have to do and that's what we're trying to do."
Of the 12 games remaining in their regular-season schedule, six of them are on home ice, including tonight's game. They'll host the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday before heading out on a crucial four-game road trip beginning Monday in Tampa Bay. "If we can win, we control our own destiny," head coach Rick Tocchet said on the team's official website. "That's our attitude. We've got to recharge. We've got a big game [vs. Anaheim]. That's the way we have to think."