After rolling past the Florida Panthers on Sunday night, the Anaheim Ducks head north to face three teams that have two things in common.
One, all three are in western Canada.
Two, all three sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division.
The Ducks will play for redemption Wednesday night in Calgary before taking on the Edmonton Oilers and Vancouver Canucks on Friday and Saturday.
This is a great opportunity for the Ducks to gain some ground on the San Jose Sharks. After another sizzling start to the season, the Ducks have hit a wall as they are 4-4-2 in their last ten games, including a loss to the Sharks that gave San Jose sole possession of first place in the division.
Only two points behind, the Ducks have plenty of time to catch up and overthrow Joe Thornton and the Sharks. With that said, a golden opportunity presents itself starting in Calgary.
The last time Anaheim took a trip to Calgary, the Flames gave the Ducks resounding wake-up call. Calgary scored four in the first period and never gave the Ducks a chance en route to a 7-2 victory at the Scotiabank Saddledome.
After the debacle in Calgary, the Ducks bounced back with victories over the Colorado Avalanche and Los Angeles Kings on back-to-back nights. But Anaheim has since dropped two of three.
However, the three game road trip up north could be the perfect recipe for the Ducks to return to their winning ways and climb back to the top of the Pacific Division mountain.
The Ducks started their summit back to the top with a 6-2 win over the Panthers on Sunday. A balanced offensive attack stormed former Duck goalie Dan Ellis as six different Ducks lit the lamp. No goal was more important than Ryan Getzlaf‘s third period tally.
Getzlaf potted his 30th goal of the season, but it was his first since the Olympic break. In order for the Ducks to leapfrog San Jose and avoid a first round match up with Los Angeles, their leader in the locker room and in points needs to get back in the groove.
Besides getting the captain back on track, goaltending will also be key down the stretch for the Ducks. Recently, head coach Bruce Boudreau has been rotating the tandem of Jonas Hiller and rookie Frederik Andersen. Both, however, have been suspect of late.
With 11 games left in the season, expect the rotation between Hiller and Andersen to continue. Presumably, Hiller will be the No. 1 guy going into the postseason, but if he struggles the rest of the way, a goaltender controversy could be upon us.
But before even thinking about the playoffs, the Ducks need to focus at the task at hand and that is the three game road trip.
The opportunity is there to get back on track, regain first place, and cement a top three seed in the postseason. A second consecutive Pacific Division title will allow the Ducks to avoid facing off with the Kings in the first round, a series that would take a major mental and physical toll on Boudreau’s squad.
The load lightens up this week with the road trip in western Canada. As it stands today, all three teams are out of the playoff picture. What better way for the Ducks to regain their early season momentum then to beat up on cellar dwellers.
If Sunday’s victory over the Panthers is any indication, the Ducks are ready to take care of business this week.
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