PREDATORS (36-26-5) at DUCKS (30-28-8)
Nashville 5-4-1; Anaheim 4-5-1
Fourth and final meeting of the regular season. The Ducks have taken two of the first three matchups, including a 4-0 win on Nov. 5 in which Jonas Hiller
stopped all 40 shots he faced and Teemu Selanne scored a pair of goals.
Life doesn't get any easier for the Predators. Less than 24 hours after giving up six goals in the third period to fall in San Jose, they take on an Anaheim squad in urgent need of a victory.
While Calgary and Detroit have been trading off occupying the eighth spot in the Western Conference, it's now turned into a three-team race for the final two playoff berths. Unfortunately for the Predators, they lost Thursday while the Flames and Red Wings both won. By letting a 4-2 lead after two periods slip away in an 8-5 loss to the Sharks, the Predators were tied by the Flames for seventh, one point ahead of the Wings for ninth.
"The fifth and sixth goals -- those were horrendous things that happened," coach Barry Trotz said. "We needed saves. That's the bottom line."
Nine points behind Nashville and Calgary with 16 games left, nothing short of a prolonged winning streak will save Anaheim's postseason hopes at this juncture. The Ducks have lost four straight coming out of the Olympic break, including an inexcusable 5-2 home loss on Tuesday against the Blue Jackets, a team even farther out of the race. Lubomir Visnovsky
and Ryan Getzlaf
scored third-period goals to make it a 3-2 game, but the Ducks could get no closer.
"You can't come out of a break looking for a playoff run and then drop four straight," forward Bobby Ryan
said. "It's unacceptable. They were missing a couple of big guys in their lineup. It's a missed opportunity is the best way to put it. It's embarrassing."
Who's hot: Patric Hornqvist
and J.P. Dumont each scored twice for the Predators on Thursday. Hornqvist has a team-leading 25 goals, while Dumont's second was also his 500th NHL point. … Getzlaf has a goal and three assists over the Ducks' last two games. Visnovsky has scored in consecutive games.
Nashville defenseman Denis Grebeshkov is out with a lower-body injury. … Anaheim forward Joffrey Lupul remains out following back surgery, while Selanne is day-to-day with flu-like symptoms.
Nine different Predators have at least 10 goals, while Jerred Smithson
and Dustin Boyd are poised to reach that mark with eight apiece. … Special teams are one reason for the Ducks' woes of late -- their power play is 3-for-21 (14.3 percent) since the break, while their penalty kill is just 12-for-19 (63.2 percent).
In spite of the long odds they face, the Ducks still believe -- just ask rookie forward Dan Sexton
"A team like Nashville would be a great jumpstart for us if we can capitalize on those guys," he said. "Times like these are when you need to pull together and realize this can easily be changed. It's not going to be magic that brings us back. It's going to be through hard work. Once things start to pull our way, we could go on a six- or 10-game stretch. We just need that first win to get it going for us."