The Pacific Division lead is on the line tonight as the Ducks and Sharks square off at the SAP Center in San Jose.
Currently tied with 97 points apiece (Anaheim has played 69 games to San Jose’s 70), a regulation win tonight for the Ducks could set the tone for their upcoming stretch of games. After tonight, the Ducks play nine consecutive games against teams currently out of the playoff picture. It’s not until April 9, when the Ducks and Sharks close out the season series at Honda Center, that the Ducks face a team in postseason contention.
“It has that playoff atmosphere to it,” said Ducks forward Daniel Winnik, on the rivalry. “Who knows if we’ll play them in the playoffs. At some point, we hope we do.”
It’s always a physical contest when these two clubs meet, and Winnik, a former Shark, says they’ll have to be ready for a team known for its quick starts.
“They really come out in the first 10 minutes,” he said. “If we really handle their pressure then, we should be successful. We know they’re a big, strong team. Our focus is to protect the house as best as possible.”
The Ducks will be without the services of defenseman Cam Fowler after an MRI revealed a sprained left MCL. Fowler was injured during Friday’s game in Colorado, and will miss the next 3-5 weeks.
“We will get through it,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau. “We know Cam will work hard to get back, and in the meantime, guys will step up. Another example of why having depth is important."
And with Nick Bonino also out of the lineup, reinforcements have arrived. The Ducks recalled left wing Emerson Etem and center Rickard Rakell from Norfolk of the American Hockey League, and both were on the ice this morning.
Etem, 21, has appeared in 28 contests with Anaheim this season, earning 11 points (7g/4a) with a +3 rating and four penalty minutes. During his most recent recall, Etem played two games for the Ducks, scoring the game-winning goal on February 8 at Nashville. Etem appeared in 39 contests with the Admirals this season, scoring 42 points (16g/26a) with a +11 rating. At the time of his recall, he led the team in points, assists and plus/minus (+11), and second in goals.
Rakell, 20, has appeared in nine contests with Anaheim this season, earning one point (assist) with two penalty minutes. The 6-1, 192-pound center appeared in 46 games for Norfolk this season, collecting 37 points (14g/23a) with a +7 rating and 12 penalty minutes. Rakell left Norfolk ranked third on the team in points, second in assists and power-play goals (8), and tied for third in goals.
Anaheim and San Jose play the fourth of a five-game season set Thursday night at SAP Center. The Ducks are 1-1-1 vs. the Sharks this season, earning a 6-3 victory on New Year's Eve in Orange County. Anaheim has gone 53-53-10 all-time against San Jose, including a 27-26-5 mark in Northern California. The season series concludes April 9 at Honda Center.