It's not the Stanley Cup Playoffs just yet, but tonight's game should have the look and feel of one. The Ducks and Oilers have been neck and neck for nearly the entire season, and tonight the winner will not only take over sole possession of second place in the Pacific Division standings, it'll also close the gap behind the San Jose Sharks to just two points.
Anaheim enters the game coming off a statement victory over the Sharks at SAP Center on Saturday night, 24 hours after earning a point in a 10-round shootout loss to the Buffalo Sabres. Edmonton comes in riding a four-game winning streak and just finished a season-high eight-game homestand with a 5-2-1 mark.
"This time of the year is fun," said Ducks winger Patrick Eaves. "You're playing for something during the regular season, which is awesome. This is when teams are starting to put their chips on the table. Everyone is focused and pulling the rope. Points are valuable. If you look at the stats and the standings, this is huge."
Ryan Kesler and his lauded shutdown line with Andrew Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg will be put to the ultimate test as they look to stymie Connor McDavid, Patrick Maroon and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid sits atop the NHL scoring race with 82 points (25g/57a) in 72 games, one point ahead of Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby and two points up on Boston's Brad Marchand and Chicago's Patrick Kane. Edmonton's captain has led or co-led the NHL in scoring since November 22. However, against Anaheim, McDavid has only managed one assist through the first three head-to-head meetings this season and two assists over six career games.
Jonathan Bernier will make his fifth consecutive start in net as he goes for his sixth win in his last seven starts overall. Bernier enters tonight's game with a 15-7-3 record, 2.49 goals-against average and .918 save percentage. He'll face Cam Talbot, who leads the NHL in games played (65), minutes played (3,861) and saves (1,770), and ranks tied for second in wins (37). Talbot is coming off consecutive shutout victories, stopping all 68 shots over his last two games.
Though the skate was optional for Anaheim, it appears forward Jared Boll and defenseman Korbinian Holzer will draw into the lineup replacing Ondrej Kase and Brandon Montour. Logan Shaw will also likely serve as a healthy scratch up front.
The only change for Edmonton, based off reports from its pregame skate, is forward Anton Slepyshev replacing Matt Hendricks in the lineup.
Social Media Night Presented by YP
This is the fifth annual Social Media Night Presented by YP, which will feature several interactive opportunities for fans via the Ducks' various social media channels, as well as the official Ducks mobile app, inside Honda Center and on the Fox Sports Prime Ticket telecast. Fans are encouraged to post on Twitter and Instagram using the #DucksSocial hashtag before and during the game, and many posts will be displayed throughout Honda Center and on the telecast. More information can be found here.
Potential Line Combinations
Video: The Ducks preview a pivotal matchup with Edmonton