Anaheim Ducks Falter Again, Fall 2-1 to Vancouver Canucks in Shootout

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Nov 9, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks defenseman Sami Vatanen (45) moves the puck against the Vancouver Canucks during the third period at Honda Center. The Vancouver Canucks defeated the Anaheim Ducks in a shootout with a final score of 2-1. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Up next for the Anaheim Ducks is a huge test, as the team squares off on Wednesday against the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Los Angeles Kings. This will be the first meeting since the 6-2 shellacking in Game 7 that eliminated the Ducks from the playoffs, while Los Angeles eventually went on to win the Stanley Cup. In an effort to revamp the team and give it a better chance of beating Los Angeles, general manager Bob Murray spent his offseason getting younger, giving roster spots to players such as Smith-Pelly, Vatanen, Andersen, William Karlsson, and Emerson Etem over players such as Daniel Winnik, Stephane Robidas, Jonas Hiller, and Saku Koivu. He acquired Kesler and Nate Thompson to give the Ducks more strength at center, an area the Kings exposed as a weakness in the postseason, both in faceoffs and in four-line play.

The Kings are 8-4-3 on the season after defeating the Canucks 5-1 on Saturday, but their 19 points are only fourth in the Pacific Division (behind Anaheim, Vancouver, and Calgary) and seventh in the Western Conference. However, the Kings are a team that has proven that seeding and regular-season records do not mean anything: they were the first North American 8-seed to win a championship during their 2012 Stanley Cup run. The Kings also won last season as the third seed in the Pacific and sixth best team in the Western Conference (by points) and are 8-1 in playoff series where they do not have home-ice advantage since 2012 (with the one loss to the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Finals).

Los Angeles is a team predicated on strong team defense. They have only allowed 30 goals, fewest in the Pacific Division and tied for 6th in the NHL. This has helped them overcome some goal-scoring issues, as the Kings are tied for 24th in goals scored with 37. Tyler Toffoli leads the Kings with seven goals, ten assists, and 17 points. Toffoli also has a +14 rating, which tops the team and is second in the entire NHL (only behind Nashville Predators forward Filip Forsberg). Linemate Tanner Pearson also has seven goals, tied with Toffoli, and is a terrific +13. At this pace, Pearson could be a candidate for the Calder Trophy for top rookie. Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez have six points apiece to lead Kings’ defensemen: Martinez leads their defensemen with two goals, while Doughty leads them with six assists and 28:06 of ice time, second in the NHL only to Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. Jonathan Quick is having another solid season, sporting a 7-3-3 record with a 1.86 GAA and .943 SV%. The Kings do not have a game between this past Saturday’s victory over Vancouver and Wednesday’s primetime showdown against the Ducks.

Point Streaks, General Notes:

Kesler and Vatanen each extended their point streaks to three game after the Ducks’ power-play goal in the second period. The Ducks have also scored power-play goals in each of their past three games and have converted 42.9% of their power-plays during this homestand (3/7). Vatanen has points on all three power-play goals (1 G, 2 A), while Kesler has two assists.

Without Fowler or Beauchemin in the lineup, Hampus Lindholm took the directive of being the anchor on the blue-line, playing 25:04 to lead all Anaheim skaters. Vatanen was second, playing 24:28 while Bryan Allen played 22:10.

Vatanen had three more blocked shots on Sunday, extending his team-leading total to 33 and putting him in a tie for 11th among all NHL players.

Dany Heatley drew in for Rickard Rakell, but only played 10:24. He got top-line opportunities with Getzlaf while Maroon was serving his fighting major, but Heatley has continued to struggle, only playing fourth line minutes after Maroon exited the box.