PENGUINS (11-3-0) at DUCKS (4-6-2)
Last 10 --
Pittsburgh 8-2-0; Anaheim 4-5-1
Season series --
The first and only meeting of the season between the clubs will mark the first of a four-game West Coast road trip for the defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins. Pittsburgh, 2-0-1 against Anaheim in its last three meetings, hasn't lost to the Ducks since suffering a 3-2 overtime setback in 2006-07.
Big Story --
The Penguins are certainly picking up where they left off last season behind captain Sidney Crosby
and goalie Marc-Andre Fleury
. In addition to leading the Eastern Conference with 11 wins and 22 points, the Pens are one of only two teams in the League -- the New Jersey Devils being the other -- unbeaten on the road at 6-0-0. Since coach Dan Bylsma took over the reigns as head coach on Feb. 15, the Penguins have gone 14-2-3 in the regular season away from Mellon Arena.
"This will be a chance to go on the road; a week trip going out west," Bylsma said. "We should have some time to focus on our game and this is a trip you circle. This is a good time for our team to go out on the road. We're looking forward to a little bit of rest and getting on the road."
It's a homecoming of sorts for Bylsma, who spent his entire NHL playing career in sunny California. Bylsma played parts of five seasons with the Los Angeles Kings and parts of four seasons with the Ducks. Following their meeting with the Ducks, the Pens will be in Los Angeles on Thursday and San Jose on Saturday before heading east with a matchup against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 10.
"There are always things you feel like you can improve, but it's pretty tough to complain with an 11-3 record. You've got to be pretty happy with that," Crosby said.
The top line of Ryan Getzlaf
centering Bobby Ryan
and Corey Perry
has been absolutely lights out this season. The trio has combined for 13 goals (4 power-play goals) and 33 points in 12 games. Perry is obviously hoping to make a great impression prior to the announcement of the Canadian roster that will compete for a gold medal in Vancouver at the 2010 Winter Olympics. While Getzlaf is a relative lock to make the team, Perry is one of those players "on the fence."
Who's Hot --
Crosby has risen to 12th in the NHL scoring race with a team-leading 16 points (9 goals) after notching just 4 goals over his first 9 games. He trails Washington's Alex Ovechkin, who leads the League, by 7 points. Penguins D Alex Goligoski not only leads all NHL players with a plus-12 rating, but he's connected for 12 points in 14 games. Perry scored his team-leading eighth goal of the season in a 3-2 overtime loss to Phoenix on Halloween night. He has 4 goals in his last 3 games.
Injury Report --
For the Penguins, Sergei Gonchar (broken left wrist), Evgeni Malkin
(shoulder strain) and Tyler Kennedy
(undisclosed) are out. Forward Maxime Talbot is still recovering from offseason shoulder surgery. Anaheim goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere (strained groin muscle) has been placed on injured reserve, and Justin Pogge is the backup to starter Jonas Hiller
Stat Pack --
Fleury, who is also making a case to be one of the three goalies selected to represent Team Canada in Vancouver in February, ranks second in the NHL with 9 victories to complement a 2.07 goals-against average and .918 save percentage.
Puck Drop --
It's obviously a huge test for Anaheim, just 1-4-1 in its last six games. Hiller started consecutive nights for the first time this season over the weekend -- making 36 saves in a 7-2 win over Vancouver before dropping a 3-2 shootout decision to Phoenix behind 30 saves.
--Mike G. Morreale, NHL.com