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Ducks in a frenzied race for a playoff spot

by Arthur J. Regner @arthurjregner / DetroitRedWings.com

DETROIT -- Trying to predict if the Anaheim Ducks (27-19-11, 65 points) will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs is almost impossible.

After a 3-2 shootout loss to San Jose at home on Sunday, a game where it had a 2-0 lead in the third period, Anaheim, Detroit's next opponent (Tuesday at Little Caesars Arena - 7:30 p.m. face-off), is in fifth place in the Pacific Division.

Anaheim trails the Calgary Flames by a point for third in the Pacific, but the Flames have two more wins and a game in hand on the Ducks.

Los Angeles is fourth in the Pacific with 65 points, but the Kings have three more victories than the Ducks and two games in hand.

When you look at the wild card race in the Western Conference, Anaheim sits in fourth place. The Ducks trail Dallas by five points for the first wild card spot with both teams having played 57 games.

Minnesota holds the second and final wild card spot with 66 points, and like the Kings, the Wild have three more victories and two games in hand on the Ducks.

Throw in the Avalanche with 30 victories and 64 points in 55 games and, if Chicago gets hot (56 points in 55 games), you could have up to nine teams in the mix for the two wild card playoff berths in the Western Conference.

With so many teams in the running, Sunday's loss was disappointing and left Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle a bit baffled.

"We didn't seem to have the energy for the full 60 minutes," Carlyle told FOX Sports Prime Ticket after the game. "I thought we stood around a little too much. It just seemed we ran out of gas. We lost a point, we lost some ground and I'm sure that point will hurt us here tonight."

Left wing Nick Ritchie, who assisted on both Anaheim goals, believes the Ducks were a bit careless as the game progressed.

"There are things we can clean up," he told Prime Ticket. "We were a little bit sloppy. It's definitely crunch time, it kind of already was with the bunch-up in the standings."

Anaheim is led by its top line of All-Star Rickard Rakell, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. Rakell leads the Ducks in points with 45 in 52 games and in goals with 22. His ice time of 19:25 per game is fifth on the team and second among forwards.

Getzlaf leads all Ducks forwards in ice time and is third overall on the club, clocking in at 20:54 per game. Anaheim's captain is second in scoring with 35 points in 33 games. His 28 assists lead the Ducks and his plus-12 is fourth best on the team.

On October 29 in Carolina, Getzlaf took a puck to the face. The injury required surgery to repair the zygomatic bone in his face. He missed 19 games from the operation.

While Getzlaf continues to produce, his longtime line mate Perry has been an enigma.

Last season, Perry scored just 19 goals after scoring 110 goals in the three previous seasons combined. This season, he is third in scoring on Anaheim with 32 points, but he has only 11 goals. He was in such a goal drought, he was relegated to fourth-line duty.

Perry responded to being demoted and has begun to regain his scoring touch. Heading into the San Jose game, he was riding a four-game point streak and had seven goals and eight assists in his last 19 games.

It was during that stretch he was put on the Ducks' top line and though he didn't register a point against the Sharks on Sunday, Anaheim's brass is pleased with Perry's play.

"He's more around the net. If you look at where the goals are scored, it's right tight to the net," Carlyle said. "He has to get dirty and greasy and worm his way to the front of the net. I don't think there are too many players that are better than bringing the puck from the back of the net to the front of the net and create offense."

Forwards Ondrej Kase (15 goals, 12 assists, plus-14) and Jakob Silfverberg (12 goals, 14 assists, minus-4) round out Anaheim's top five in scoring.

Livonia native Ryan Kesler had offseason hip surgery and missed the first 37 games of the season. Since his return to the Ducks lineup on December 27 against Vegas, the former Selke Trophy winner has played in 20 games, notching six goals, two assists and is minus-5.

Defensively, the Ducks are led by Josh Manson, Windsor-born and Farmington Hills-raised Cam Fowler, Hampus Lindholm and Brandon Montour.

Manson, a sixth-round pick, 160th overall, in the 2011 NHL Draft, is tied with Fowler in scoring among the Ducks defensive corps with 25 points (three goals, 22 assists) in 52 games. His plus-23 is the best on the Ducks and ranks second overall among NHL defensemen.

Fowler has seven goals among his 25 points in 45 games. He's minus-6 and leads the Ducks in ice time, averaging 24:22 per game.

Lindholm is second in ice time on the Ducks at 22:46 per game. In 44 games, he has eight goals among his 19 points and is plus-7.

Like many of his teammates, Lindholm has dealt with health issues, causing him to miss 13 games this season. He had offseason shoulder surgery and missed the first seven games of the campaign and has also sat out six more contests nursing lower and upper body injuries.

Montour was picked in the second round, 55th overall, in the 2014 NHL Draft. In 55 games he has six goals, 16 assists and is plus-14 in 19:09 of ice time per game.

Veteran defensemen Kevin Bieksa, 36, (five assists, minus-12, 18:06 ice time) who played in his 800th career game against the Sharks and Francois Beauchemin, 37, (two goals, seven assists, plus-8, 17:51 ice time) are a pair of grizzled blueliners who provide stability on and off the ice.

John Gibson is Anaheim's No. 1 goalie. From February 1 through February 6, he missed four games with a lower-body injury, but he returned to the lineup on February 9 and looked sharp against Edmonton in a 3-2 Ducks victory.

For the season, Gibson is 19-14-6 with a 2.60 goals-against average, a .923 save percentage and a shutout.

Former Michigan State standout and 2000-01 Hobey Baker recipient Ryan Miller serves as Gibson's backup in net. Miller is 7-4-5 this season with a 2.69 goals-against average, a .915 save percentage and two shutouts.

It is expected Gibson will start in goal Tuesday against the Wings.

In the Ducks' shootout loss to the Sharks, Gibson's numbers were impressive. He stopped 37 of the 39 shots he faced for a .949 save percentage.

Anaheim begins a four-game road trip against the Wings on Tuesday. The Ducks are 12-10-7 on the road this season and 5-3-2 in their last 10 games.

But they know full well in a super tight playoff race, they must forget about blowing a two-goal lead against the Sharks and concentrate on the task at hand.

"We have a long day tomorrow (Monday) a five-and-half-hour flight to get to Detroit to get ourselves ready and prepare to play the Detroit hockey club in their building," Carlyle said. "That will be the kickoff to the road trip and we always try and utilize the first game as a springboard to help get into a positive frame of mind."

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