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Ducks conclude road trip against Penguins

by David Kalan

DUCKS (15-5-2) at PENGUINS (12-8-0)


Last 10: Anaheim 6-2-2; Pittsburgh 5-5-0

Season series: This is the first meeting of the season between the Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins. The teams have not played each other since Feb. 15, 2012, when the Ducks beat the Penguins, 2-1, at Consol Energy Center.

Big story: Despite being two of the top teams in the NHL, Pittsburgh and Anaheim are both mired in slumps. Each will look for a big win to snap out of the funk in a potential Stanley Cup Final preview.

Team Scope:

Ducks: Anaheim has been one of the top teams in the League this season, while playing in arguably the most competitive division in the NHL no less, but the Ducks have struggled lately. On Friday, Anaheim lost in a shootout to the Carolina Hurricanes, giving the Ducks their third consecutive defeat.

"I thought our team played really well tonight," coach Bruce Boudreau said afterward. "They showed great character to allow that team 19 shots before overtime. I thought that was a pretty good commitment to defense. We lost in a shootout, but we played a good game."

Those three straight losses have entirely stunted the momentum of one of the hottest teams in the NHL. Prior to their current skid, the Ducks hadn't lost in regulation in nine games. Anaheim has also ceded valuable ground during its losing streak to the rival San Jose Sharks and Phoenix Coyotes, which has made a tight race in the Pacific Division even tighter.

Monday night's visit to Pittsburgh will be the last stop for the Ducks on their current four-game road trip, which perhaps not surprisingly has coincided with their current skid. While the Ducks are a perfect 8-0-0 at home this season, their road record is 7-5-2.

Penguins: The Penguins, a popular preseason Stanley Cup pick, have also been enduring a rough stretch of late. Pittsburgh was beaten up by the New Jersey Devils, 4-1, Saturday night, its fourth loss in the past five games. Those losses are particularly surprising considering goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has been playing especially well, giving up more than two goals twice in his past eight starts. By that same token, however, the Penguins' offense, one of the most potent in the League, has been unable to match the stellar play of its goaltender. Pittsburgh has scored more than one goal once in its past five games.

"At the end of the day, you've gotta score, but if you're getting chances, I mean, I don't know what you really change," captain Sidney Crosby said. "You try to go to the net just as much, work on those little things like stop at the net, get a screen, competing down at those areas. But ultimately, it's a matter of putting it in when you get a chance."

The offensive struggles and the losses that have come with it have cost Pittsburgh dearly in the standings over the last week. The Washington Capitals and New York Rangers, both of which struggled earlier this season, have rapidly closed on the Penguins, making their division lead evaporate in the process. A win Monday would not just give the Penguins two points in the standings, but it would also provide valuable momentum as they prepare to face Washington in a game with significant implications in the Metropolitan Division on Wednesday.

Who's hot: Despite his team's losing streak, Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf has four goals and three assists over his past three games. ... Fleury plays in front of an offense that is struggling to light the lamp, but he has still posted impressive numbers (2.04 goals-against average, .913 save percentage) in his past four games.

Injury report: Centers Mathieu Perreault (flu) and Saku Koivu (concussion) are questionable for the Ducks, though both skated with the team on Sunday, while right wing Jakob Silfverberg (broken hand) remains on injured reserve. … The Penguins are still without right wing Chuck Kobasew (lower-body injury) and defenseman Robert Scuderi (broken ankle).

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