When the New Jersey Devils host the Anaheim Ducks on Sunday (7 p.m. ET; MSG, FS-W), the teams will be fighting for different things.
For the visiting Ducks, it is all about playoff positioning. Yes, Anaheim clinched a berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season with a 3-2 victory against the New York Islanders on Saturday, but there is still much for which to play during the final five games of the season.
The Ducks have 103 points and are in the driver's seat in the race for the Presidents' Trophy as the NHL's top team, one point ahead of the Nashville Predators and the Montreal Canadiens and two points ahead of the New York Rangers. The Predators and Rangers are also in action Sunday. Anaheim has a 12-point cushion on the Vancouver Canucks for the Pacific Division crown and could clinch with a favorable set of results Sunday.
"It's a long season to play and you play to get in the playoffs," forward Andrew Cogliano told the Orange County Register on Saturday. "And then it's a different season. It's nice to know that we're in and now you fight for position.
"I think it's an accomplishment for the team and that's about it. The way the regular seasons have gone the last couple years, it's good but now obviously the real work starts."
New Jersey, meanwhile, is fighting to avoid mathematical elimination after a 3-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday. The Devils will be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or the accumulation of any standings points by the Boston Bruins, who play the Hurricanes in the afternoon.
"It's not going to happen where people are going to start feeling sorry for themselves here," center Scott Gomez told NorthJersey.com. "No one's throwing it in. There are too many guys in there that won't let it happen, and all you've got to do is look behind the bench at those guys and the staff and that's the last thing anyone is going to do here, feel sorry for themselves or pack it in.
"It's a good experience for a lot of the young guys. We'll come back [Sunday] and it's a huge test and we'll go from there."
The Ducks still have several questions to answer despite their success. Coach Bruce Boudreau will begin the process of arriving at those answers against the Devils.
Among the most pressing questions is which goalie will start for the Ducks in the postseason. Will it be Frederik Andersen, who defeated the Islanders on Saturday, or John Gibson, who is likely to get the start against the Devils?
Andersen is 33-11-5 with a 2.40 goals-against average and a .914 save percentage. Gibson is 12-7-0 with a 2.65 GAA and a .914 save percentage.
The Ducks also have to figure out their defensive rotation. After some maneuvering at the NHL Trade Deadline earlier this month, they have seven defenseman fighting for six spots. Boudreau has scratched various defensemen during the past few games. Mainstays Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm are among the most recent to be scratched.
It is unclear who will sit Sunday because neither team held a morning skate at Prudential Center .
Here are the projected lineups:
Jiri Sekac - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey - Ryan Kesler - Kyle Palmieri
Patrick Maroon - Rickard Rakell - Jakob Silfverberg
Andrew Cogliano - Nate Thompson - Chris Wagner
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler - Simon Despres
Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen
Hampus Lindholm - Francois Beauchemin
Scratched: Tomas Fleischmann, James Wisniewski, Emerson Etem, Korbinian Holzer
Injured: Tim Jackman (lower body)
Reid Boucher - Scott Gomez - Steve Bernier
Mike Cammalleri - Travis Zajac - Jordin Tootoo
Adam Henrique - Patrik Elias - Stephen Gionta
Tuomo Ruutu - Jacob Josefson - Dainius Zubrus
Andy Greene - Adam Larsson
Jon Merrill - Damon Severson
Mark Fraser - Eric Gelinas
Scratched: Martin Havlat, Michael Ryder, Stefan Matteau, Peter Harrold
Injured: Bryce Salvador (back), Ryane Clowe (concussion)
Status report: Larsson and Greene have played together since the first game of the season, but they were split for portions of the game Saturday. They were reunited for the third period, but it is unclear if they will be paired Sunday. … Boucher lost half a tooth in a high-sticking incident Saturday, but finished the game. He should be available Sunday, although he says he will need to see the dentist at some point.
Who's hot: Kesler has won 33 of 46 face offs in the past two games, both victories. … Perry has four goals and five points in his past six games. … Cammalleri has four points in his past five games.