The Ducks (6-5-3, 15 pts.) hit the halfway point of a three-game road trip tonight as they take on the Carolina Hurricanes (3-5-4, 10 pts.) at PNC Arena (4 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). Anaheim enters tonight's game with points in three straight (2-0-1, 5 pts.), four of the past five (3-1-1, 7 pts.) and eight of the past 10 games (6-2-2, 14 pts.).
Tonight concludes the club's fourth set of back-to-back games in 2016-17. The Ducks are 2-2-3 in back-to-backs this season after going 14-5-3 in such contests last year. In total, the Ducks will play 14 sets of back-to-back games in 2016-17, an increase of three from the previous season. Following tonight's game, the trip will conclude in Nashville on Saturday (5 p.m. PT).
This contest opens a two-game season series between the Ducks and Hurricanes. Anaheim owns a 16-13-3 all-time mark vs. Carolina, including a 7-7-2 road record. At PNC Arena, the Ducks have won two consecutive games dating to Feb. 12, 2015 (3-2 SO win). Corey Perry enters tonight's game leading active Ducks skaters in career scoring against Carolina with 14 points (7g/7a) in 13 games. Anaheim and Carolina meet again on Dec. 7 at Honda Center to wrap up the season series.
"We have to execute to a higher level and be ready from the beginning," said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. "For us, we have to be ready from the opening faceoff. We need to get on them because we're a skating hockey club. We're not going to use a back-to-back as an excuse."
The Ducks are coming off a 3-2 overtime loss last night against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena. Anaheim managed to erase an early two-goal deficit with goals from Rickard Rakell and Nick Ritchie in the second and third periods, respectively, but ultimately saw its two-game winning streak come to an end in the OT loss. The point earned still vaulted the Ducks to second place in the Pacific Division. The Ducks enter tonight's game four points back of first-place Edmonton and one point ahead of third-place San Jose.
Despite the resiliency the Ducks showed last night, Carlyle wasn't pleased with how his club started the game. "You can't play the game at this level without a good start," he said today. "We were fortunate to get a point. We got ourselves back into the hockey game. We had an opportunity for the second point, but we were fortunate.
"There are some things we can be better at," he adds. "I don't think we were physical enough. They won more battles in the offensive zone for the puck than we did, and the stats proved that. On the other side of it, we controlled a lot of the play after the 10-minute mark of the first period."
This marks the opener of a five-game homestand for Carolina, which began the season with a brutal six-game road trip away from PNC Center. The Hurricanes are coming off a 3-2 shootout loss in New Jersey on Tuesday despite a 39-save effort from goaltender Cam Ward. The veteran netminder has a 1-0-2 record in his past three starts and has stopped 94-of-100 shots in those appearances (.940 save percentage).
It's been nearly a year to the day since Ritchie made his NHL debut against the Hurricanes at PNC Arena - Nov. 16, 2015 to be exact. A lot has changed since then for the 20-year-old power forward, but today Ritchie said playing in this building tonight will mean a little bit more. "It was an exciting experience for me to be playing my first game," he said. "Tonight is another game, but it's the building I played my first game in. It makes it a little bit more exciting."
Cam Fowler enters tonight's contest tied for fourth among NHL defensemen in goals (4). On special teams, Fowler co-leads NHL defensemen in power-play points (6, tied for ninth overall) and ranks second in power-play goals (3, tied for eighth overall). Sami Vatanen, meanwhile, ranks tied for fourth among defensemen in power-play points (5).
Upcoming milestones include Ryan Getzlaf one assist from surpassing Teemu Selanne (531) for the all-time franchise lead in assists and Vatanen one point from surpassing Ruslan Salei (105) for sole possession of eighth on the franchise's all-time scoring list for defensemen.