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Struggling Ducks host surging Blue Jackets

by David Kalan

BLUE JACKETS (20-16-7) at DUCKS (27-10-5)


Last 10: Columbus 7-3-0; Anaheim 5-4-1

Season series: The Columbus Blue Jackets and Anaheim Ducks have split their two meetings this season. Columbus came away with the two points the last time the teams met, winning a 2-1 overtime win at Nationwide Arena on March 31.

Big story: The Ducks may have lost their chance at the West's top overall seed due to a mild slump -- and if they can't begin to score in bunches again soon, their place atop the Pacific Division might also be in jeopardy. Getting out of the rut could be a challenge against a stingy Columbus team that is chasing the last postseason berth in the Western Conference.

Team Scope:

Blue Jackets: The deck is still stacked against the Blue Jackets making the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but they stubbornly refused to fall out of the race once again Monday night in their 4-3 overtime road win against the Colorado Avalanche. After Colorado went ahead with just over two minutes left in regulation, the Jackets were on the verge of seeing their three-game winning streak and two valuable points disappear, but R.J. Umberger tied the game 35 seconds later and Nick Foligno scored with 28.7 seconds left in overtime to give Columbus its fourth win in a row.

A win Wednesday night would match a season-high for the Jackets who are in a tight race for the West's final playoff spot with Red Wings, Stars and Coyotes. Columbus currently has the same number of points as Detroit, but its division rival has a game in hand. Overcoming that obstacle won't be easy. Columbus still has four games remaining on its current six-game road trip and there are no easy nights ahead. Aside from a home game against Nashville in the season finale, every game the Jackets have left on the schedule will be at a team that is currently in the West's top eight or knocking on the door.

Ducks: Anaheim has been one of the top teams in the League all season, but after winning just once in regulation in their last five games, the Ducks are suddenly struggling. At one point the Ducks were neck and neck with the Chicago Blackhawks for the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, but hopes of claiming that prize have disappeared. Now the focus is on sealing Anaheim's first division title in six years, a job made all the more difficult by a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Kings in their last game Saturday night.

If the Ducks need a culprit for their current stumbles they can look squarely at an offense that hasn't been producing at its typical clip. Anaheim has scored just eight times in its last five outings, well below the Ducks' season average of 2.83 goals per game. If the Ducks can't start lighting the lamp again soon, they won't just limp into the playoffs, they might be hard-pressed to keep up with the offenses of Chicago or Los Angeles once they get there.

Who's hot: The Jackets wouldn't be anywhere without goalie Sergei Bobrovsky. In his last four starts, Bobrovsky is 4-0-0 with a 1.45 goals-against average and a .956 save percentage. ... Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf tallied two goals and four assists in his past four games.

Injury report: Defenseman Tim Erixon (upper body) has missed the past eight games for Columbus and is questionable to return Wednesday. Center Artem Anisimov is out indefinitely after suffering a head injury against the Minnesota Wild on April 13. … Defenseman Cam Fowler (upper body) is questionable for the Ducks.

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