Preview: Eaves Could Make Ducks Debut Today at LA
The Ducks (32-20-10, 74 pts.) take on the LA Kings (29-27-4, 62 pts.) this afternoon at STAPLES Center in their third day game of 2016-17 (1 p.m. PT, Prime Ticket/AM 830). The Ducks have gone 6-1-1 in day games since the start of the 2015-16 season, including a 5-1 win in the most recent afternoon tilt on Dec. 11, 2016 vs. Ottawa. Of Anaheim’s 20 remaining regular-season games, 12 will be played at Honda Center and eight will take place on the road. The club’s final road schedule is broken down with three games in the Pacific Time Zone, two in the Mountain and three in the Central. The Ducks will enter their five-day break following today’s game, the final bye week for an NHL team this season.
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This matchup represents the penultimate contest of the five-game Freeway Faceoff between these crosstown rivals. Anaheim has won 13 of the last 18 regular-season games vs. LA (13-3-2), while 12 of the last 17 Ducks-Kings games have been decided by one goal. All-time, the Ducks are 62-44-24 vs. the Kings, including a 26-28-9 mark in LA. Rickard Rakell leads all skaters in scoring during the first three games of the Freeway Faceoff, collecting four points (2g/2a) with a +2 rating. This five-game season series will conclude back at Honda Center in both teams’ regular-season finale on Sunday, April 9 (5:30 p.m. PT).
“We’re playing our No. 1 rival,” said Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle. “We’re going to have to play a [big] game in the opposition’s building. They’re a big, strong team that’s desperate for points. More than likely we’ll see [Jonathan] Quick if he’s at all available. You’ve got your hands full when you play the Kings with wholesale NHL jerseys.”
Quick hasn’t played since the season opener, but has been practicing with the team as of late. LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen reported yesterday that Quick was the first goaltender off the ice for practice when previously he’d be among those who stayed on for additional work.
The Kings enter tonight’s game with losses in four of their last five games (1-4-0) and six of their last eight (2-6-0).
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The Ducks will likely counter with Jonathan Bernier, who is coming off a 26-save performance in a 5-3 victory over the Boston Bruins on Wednesday. With this being the last game before the mandated bye week, Carlyle said it “doesn’t make any sense” to play John Gibson jersey today. Gibson is dealing with a lower-body injury and recently underwent an MRI, according to Carlyle, who labeled the injury as a strain. Anaheim won’t play again until Friday, March 3 at home against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Today could mark the Ducks debut for Patrick Eaves, who was acquired from the Dallas Stars yesterday for a conditional 2017 second-round draft pick. Eaves co-led Dallas with a career-high 21 goals (tied with Tyler Seguin) and ranked tied for fourth in the NHL with 11 power-play goals at the time of the trade. The 32-year-old right wing appeared in 59 games with the Stars this season, recording a career-high 37 points (21g/16a). Eaves also led the team in power-play goals, ranked third in points and power-play points (16, 11g/5a), and second in shots on goal (154). Eaves will wear No. 18 with the Ducks’ cheap jerseys.
The Los Angeles Kings play their 10th road game in the past 13 games. They are 13-15-3 on the road, have lost four of five overall (1-4-0) and two points behind the Calgary Flames for the second wild card into the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference. Goaltender Peter Budaj has started 10 straight games, including a 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Saturday. Backup Jeff Zatkoff hasn’t played since relieving Budaj against the Washington Capitals on Feb. 5 and hasn’t started since Jan. 23 at the New York Islanders. Forward Tanner Pearson will try to match the longest regular-season point streak of his NHL career. Pearson has seven points (four goals, three assists) in three games. He had six points (four goals, two assists) in a four-game point streak from Oct. 18-25.
The Anaheim Ducks have fallen from eighth to 12th in the NHL in power-play efficiency (20.2 percent) in the past month. The Ducks are 2-for-24 with the man-advantage in their past nine games and are 3-5-1 in that span, dropping them from first in the Pacific Division to third, six points behind the San Jose Sharks following a 4-1 loss to the Florida Panthers on Friday. “When you go through with rough stretches, usually what you resort back to is defensive-zone coverage, special teams and your forecheck,” coach Randy Carlyle said. We’ve [been] negligent in some areas over the road trip, but in some of the games and NHL jerseys from China, we were very good. It gives you a little bit of a jolt when you come home and play, but we didn’t play to the level that was required last night.” The Ducks have scored two goals in two games. “We need to start playing as a team and help each other out and, “defenseman Hampus Lindholm said. “You can’t lose games the way we lost the other night.”
Tonight’s contest concludes the three-game season series between the two clubs with Minnesota taking the first two. Minnesota’s victories include a 2-1 win on January 8 at Honda Center and a 5-3 victory on January 21 at Xcel Energy Center. Despite the two losses, the Ducks enter tonight’s game with eight wins in the last 12 (8-4-0) against the Wild and hold an all-time mark of 29-20-9 (11-11-7 in Minnesota). Ryan Kesler’s 37 points (25g/12a) in 58 games lead all active Ducks in career scoring vs. Minnesota.
The Ducks are looking to salvage an unforgiving road trip that has only yielded one win through the first five games (1-3-1). They gave a valiant effort on Saturday night, erasing a three-goal deficit to the league-leading Capitals in the second and third periods, but consolation prizes mean little in this league where points are at a premium.
The road doesn’t get any easier tonight, as they take on a Minnesota squad that has gone 7-2-1 over its last 10 games, including a 6-3 victory over the Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center on Sunday. Former Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau has his new club rolling, as they enter tonight’s game just four points back of the Capitals for the top spot in the NHL. Minnesota also has a +58 goal differential, second only to Washington’s +71. Leading the Wild in scoring is Mikael Granlund, who enters tonight’s game with 50 points (16g/34a) in 55 games. Granlund has set single-season career highs in goals, assists, points, power-play goals (3), power-play assists (11), shorthanded goals (2) and multi-point games (12).