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Ducks focused on defense as they visit Oilers

by Derek Van Diest

DUCKS (14-15-6) at OILERS (15-20-3)


EDMONTON -- Scoring problems have the Anaheim Ducks focusing on defense going into their game against the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Thursday.

The Ducks have an NHL-low 66 goals this season but are three points out of third place in the Pacific Division.

"It's been weird, I've been on teams where four or five guys really struggle at the same time, but at the beginning of the season, we had about 11 guys slumping at the same time, it was incredible," Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. "When guys don't get off to good starts, you start chasing it a little bit, then you don't have the confidence, but we had everyone slumping at the same time. So it wasn't like guys weren't making good plays or guys weren't scoring, we just couldn't believe it, but I think now guys have bought in defensively, because we're at the point where I don't think anyone is looking at their stats too much this year."

Anaheim is on a two-game winning streak and defeated the Calgary Flames 1-0 on Tuesday in the first of a three-game Western Canada road trip.

The Oilers have lost three straight. They were defeated 5-2 by the Los Angeles Kings in the first of a six-game homestand Tuesday.

"They (the Ducks) have tendencies that allow them to be dangerous, that's how we prepare for them, we don't prepare for them based on goals for or against," Oilers coach Todd McLellan said. "Their penalty kill is exceptional, they've been getting great goaltending, they've been shutting teams down and they're not giving up many opportunities. In turn, they have created, they just haven't finished."

By comparison, the Oilers have 95 goals this season, but are a point behind the Ducks in the division standings.

The Oilers defeated the Ducks 4-3 in overtime in Anaheim on Nov. 11 in the first of a five-game season series.

"Every game in this League is hard, no matter who you are playing," Oilers defenseman Darnell Nurse said. "It's going to be a big divisional game here against a tough opponent and we're definitely up for the challenge. We're excited to get it going, we want to get on the right side of the win column, and that's going to come by way of a hard 60 minutes."

Oilers defenseman Brandon Davidson will return to the lineup after missing four games with a rib injury. Davidson was injured when crosschecked by Colorado Avalanche forward Blake Comeau in a 5-1 loss on Dec. 19.

"I'm excited, I was able to get some rest during the Christmas break and was able to heal up a few minor, nagging injuries," Davidson said. "I feel good and it'll be a good test tonight."

Goaltender Cam Talbot will start for Edmonton. Talbot was pulled after giving up three goals on 14 shots in the loss to Los Angeles. John Gibson will start in goal for Anaheim.

Here are the projected lineups:


Rickard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

Carl Hagelin - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg

Patrick Maroon - Nate Thompson - Andrew Cogliano

Jiri Sekac - Shawn Horcoff - Mike Santorelli

Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson

Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen

Shea Theodore - Kevin Bieksa

John Gibson

Frederik Andersen

Injured: Simon Despres (concussion symptoms), Cam Fowler (knee)

Scratched: Korbinian Holzer, Chris Stewart


Taylor HallLeon DraisaitlTeddy Purcell

Benoit PouliotRyan Nugent-HopkinsJordan Eberle

Matt HendricksMark LetestuLauri Korpikoski

Luke GazdicAnton LanderJujhar Khaira

Andrej Sekera - Mark Fayne

Darnell NurseJustin Schultz

Brad HuntBrandon Davidson

Cam Talbot

Anders Nilsson

Injured: Connor McDavid (collarbone), Rob Klinkhammer (ankle), Nail Yakupov (ankle), Oscar Klefbom (finger), Andrew Ference (undisclosed), Iiro Pakarinen (upper body)

Scratched: Nikita Nikitin, Eric Gryba

Status report: Yakupov skated with the Oilers during the morning skate for the first time since sustaining an ankle injury Nov. 25 at the Carolina Hurricanes. He will not be in the lineup. … Khaira will play in place of Pakarinen, who was injured against the Kings. Khaira had been a healthy scratch for the past five games. … Gibson has started 12 of the past 14 games for Anaheim.

Who's hot: Horcoff has two goals in his past two games. … Rakell has a goal and two assists in his past three games. … Letestu has two goals in his past three games. … Pouliot has three goals in his past two games.

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