CANUCKS (7-6-0) at DUCKS (3-6-1)
Vancouver 7-3-0; Anaheim 3-6-1
First of four meetings this season. Vancouver and Anaheim each won twice last season, but the Canucks (2-0-2) gained six points to five for the Ducks (2-1-1). That included a Halloween 2008 thriller in which defenseman Mattias Ohlund beat Jonas Hiller
in the 13th round of a shootout to finally clinch the victory.
For the second straight season, Vancouver is facing life without franchise goaltender Roberto Luongo
, although the prognosis this time isn't nearly as dire as the groin injury that forced him to miss 24 games in 2008-09. A fractured rib suffered last weekend figures to keep Luongo out for around a week, but Andrew Raycroft filled in with 30 saves and a 2-1 shootout win over Los Angeles on Thursday.
It definitely wasn't a high-octane offense that earned two points for Vancouver -- just 12 shots through regulation -- but Mikael Samuelsson
's goal in the first period led to a 1-1 tie through 65 minutes. Ryan Kesler
and the Kings' Jack Johnson traded goals early in the penalty-shot tiebreaker before Samuelsson struck again to pick up the coveted second point.
"The more I play, the better you feel out there, the more comfortable you feel and even as the game went on tonight you feel better," Raycroft said. "Tomorrow I'll feel a little better going into and hopefully we'll have the same outcome.
"We did a pretty good on their shots, they were throwing a lot on net but we didn't give up any odd man rushes."
If this isn't rock bottom, it's got to be awfully close. Anaheim has lost four in a row -- all on home ice -- and the most recent one came Monday to a previously winless Toronto squad. Since then the Ducks have had three days off to mull things over, so they can't wait to get back on the ice and try to salvage what's left of a six-game homestand that began promisingly with a win over Minnesota.
"Definitely in our situation, it would be easier if we played more games," Hiller said. "On the other hand, we'll take the rest and those days. It's going to be better next week. We have back-to-back games coming up and not much break in between games. We are looking forward to that and hopefully that will help us."
Christian Ehrhoff has been a great addition for the Canucks, as the defenseman has 10 points in his first 13 games, and more recently has complied a goal, four points and a plus-4 rating in his last four games.
While things haven't been going well at the Honda Center for the Ducks, home ice has certainly agreed with forward Ryan Getzlaf
, who has one goal and five points in his past three games.
In addition to Luongo, forwards Daniel Sedin
(foot), Pavol Demitra (shoulder) and Ryan Johnson (concussion) remain sidelined for Vancouver, which did get defenseman Sami Salo
and forward Rick Rypien back against Los Angeles.
Anaheim expects to have forward Ryan Carter back from a foot injury on Friday, but goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere is still nursing a groin injury he re-aggravated last weekend in a game against Columbus.
Raycroft is doing all he can to inspire confidence in the goaltending while Luongo is on the shelf. In three appearances this season (one start, two relief), he has a 1.03 goals-against average and has stopped 48 of 50 shots for a .958 save percentage.
It's pretty clear which team needs this game more. A quick start could be key for the Ducks, but it'll be interesting to see how they respond should the Canucks get the first goal -- will the team rally back, or will frustration begin to set in?
-- Brian Hunter, NHL.com