For a third straight game the Anaheim Ducks will be facing the Phoenix Coyotes, and for a third straight game, let’s hope it doesn’t end in a shootout loss for the Ducks. The Ducks lost the last two games with the Coyotes, (both in Phoenix), both in overtime after the Ducks had
established a lead in the game. The Coyotes however have found a way to come back, tie it up, and hold tight to the tie all the way to shootouts where goaltender Mike Smith has been the difference in getting the ‘Yotes the overtime wins.
The Ducks held a full practice yesterday for the first time in what seems ages in an effort to clean up some of the defensive play that has allowed the Coyotes to come back in both of the previous games. Although the Ducks have come away with a point from each game, the Coyotes have gained some ground and now sit 8 points behind the Ducks, (7th place in the Conference and 4th in the Pacific Division).
The Ducks still sit squarely at 2nd in both the NHL and the Western Conference, but have been hoping to follow the Chicago Blackhawks example and build a buffer between themselves and the competition in the standings. Despite coming away with 2 points in the last 2 games, the Ducks are looking to improve their record rather than sit on their early season success.
Jonas Hiller will be in net for the Ducks tonight, while the Coyotes will be resting Mike Smith, giving Jason Labarbera the start. Hiller was in net for the shootout loss in the previous game, while Labarbera is getting only his 3rd start of the season.
The Ducks offense has been firing on all cylinders as of late with a lethal, league-leading powerplay, (29.7%). And perhaps the time has finally come to say that the once dominant Ryan Getzlaf is back, as the Captain leads the Ducks in points, (25), assists, (17), and is tied with Andrew Cogliano, (who would have thought?), for the team leader in goals, (8).
Rumor has it that with Kyle Palmieri injured Bobby Ryan may be making his way back to the top line to rejoin Getzlaf and Corey Perry. The lethal RPG line of seasons past may be back on the ice tonight, and only time will tell if they will show again their once dominating, best line in the NHL ways. (Kyle Palmieri is considered day-to-day with an upper body injury and Bruce Boudreau has stated he expects Palmieri to return to the ice soon).
Center Peter Holland has been called up to play with the big boys once more, while winger Patrick Maroon has returned to the Norfolk Admirals. If Bobby Ryan does return to the top line lots of questions about the rest of the lineup will need to be addressed, and Bruce Boudreau will surely be back to his mix and match ways yet again tonight.
Both teams will be looking for better defensive play tonight, as the last two games have both been 5-4 wins for Phoenix. As both Phoenix and Anaheim sit in the middle of the pack for goals against per game, both squads hope to do a better job of keeping the puck out of their net while still burying it in the other end.
With two consecutive shootout losses, the Ducks want to right the ship in Anaheim tonight. Game starts at 7 PM on Fox Sports West.