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Predators stand in way of Ducks' run at Pacific crown

by Brian Hunter

PREDATORS (33-32-11) at DUCKS (50-18-8)


Last 10: Nashville 5-4-1; Anaheim 7-2-1

Season series: This is the third and final game between the Nashville Predators and Anaheim Ducks. The first two games were road wins for the Ducks, with Ryan Getzlaf figuring in six of their nine goals (four goals, two assists).

Big story: A third-period comeback against the Edmonton Oilers on Wednesday allowed the Ducks to reach 50 wins for the first time in franchise history. With six games remaining, their goal is to lock down the Pacific Division title and try to catch the St. Louis Blues for first in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Predators: This is the start of a three-game road trip for Nashville, which hasn't been eliminated yet from Stanley Cup Playoff contention but whose immediate order of business is trying to pass the Winnipeg Jets and get out of the basement in the Central Division.

The Predators have enjoyed their fair share of success in recent years at Honda Center, where they're 6-3-2 in their past 11 visits and 3-1-1 in the past five. Overall this season, they have 38 points in 37 road games.

"I think we've been strong on the road," left wing Eric Nystrom said in the Tennessean. "We needed more points at home. That was what killed us. Our home record was just not good enough this year, especially with the home-ice advantage and the type of building and atmosphere that we have here."

Ducks: Jonas Hiller is a seven-year NHL veteran who has 20 games of postseason experience, but it's been hard to overlook the play of rookie Frederik Andersen this season. The 24-year-old native of Denmark stopped 30 shots against Edmonton in his third consecutive start. Andersen has played well but it is Hiller who will start against Nashville.

"Freddie has proven he's one of the good, young goaltenders in this League," coach Bruce Boudreau said.

Two goals by Corey Perry helped Anaheim erase Edmonton's 2-0 lead and Francois Beauchemin scored with 1:21 remaining for a 3-2 win, two nights after the Ducks rallied from a four-goal deficit to defeat the Winnipeg Jets. Conventional wisdom states scoring first is usually a good idea, but the Ducks lead the NHL this season by a wide margin with a .556 winning percentage when they they surrender the opening goal.

"We've been a team that's worked hard all year," said Perry, who notched his 40th and 41st goals of the season. "We have that never-say-die attitude. If we can continue to push and play the right way for a full 60 minutes, we'll be all right."

Who's hot: Predators forward Patric Hornqvist has four goals and four assists during a five-game point streak. Defenseman Shea Weber has three goals in as many games. … Perry has four goals and two assists during a three-game point streak for Anaheim. Getzlaf has one goal and four assists during a four-game point streak.

Injury report: Nashville forward Nick Spaling (lower body) is expected to return. Defenseman Seth Jones (concussion) has been cleared to return, but won't play Friday, nor will forward Paul Gaustad (upper body). Forward Patrick Eaves (lower body) is day-to-day. … Anaheim defensemen Cam Fowler (knee) and Marc Fistric (lower body) remain sidelined.

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