|Too much of this last night.
They all proved troublesome for the Ducks this past weekend at Honda Center, and they've all afflicted them during this rollercoaster season.
A loss Friday night to the KIngs was the fifth in six games with the Ducks' old rivals, and a defeat yesterday evening to a newer rival, the Predators, gave Nashville a season series sweep and six straight wins going back to last year's contentious first-round series.
Friday night, the Ducks had a rough first period against the Kings, falling into a 3-0 hole before valiantly fighting back and coming up just short in the final minutes (getting ultimately done in by an empty-net goal). Last night against Nashville, the Ducks instead jumped in front 1-0 on a beauty of a shorthanded goal by Devante Smith-Pelly. But they couldn't get anything else past goalie Anders Lindback and gave up two to the Preds in the third, then a later empty-netter to clinch it. Playing the second of a back-to-back, Nashville seemingly waited for the Ducks to provide an opening and attacked (I suppose that's why they're called the Predators.)
“They never beat themselves. They hang around," Bobby Ryan said of a very good Predators team. "They just continue to be there and be in your way and chip away at things.
"They’re almost sneaky. Because it doesn’t feel like they’re getting chances and then all of a sudden, it’s a quick one.”
It was a frustrating way to go for the Ducks, especially against two teams you love to beat and hate to lose to, no matter where anyone stands in the race for the playoffs.
Tonight the Ducks turn around and face yet another bitter rival, this time on the road, as they take on the Sharks up in San Jose. The Sharks go into this one in an unfamiliar spot in the standings, ninth place in the Western Conference but just a point out of seventh and eighth with games in hand on both. Despite a recent drought in which they went 3-8-4, they beat Nashville at home on Thursday and Detroit there Saturday. They're actually also just a point out of the Pacific Division lead, which would catapult them to third in the West.
The Ducks would love nothing more than to make sure they go nowhere on that ladder tonight, in what always is an unfriendly building. More than that, they'd like to turn the tide on a frustrating weekend that was the continuation of a tough stretch following that inspiring surge in January and February.
"You learn to hate it and you never want to do it again," Boudreau said. "That's what I get out of it when something like this goes on and you start losing and you get frustrated like we did a little bit at the end there.
"You remember those things for awhile. And you come back, knowing you don't want to go through that feeling again."
Boudreau indicated that Hiller would go again tonight but that backup Jeff Deslauriers, "will play before the year is out. At some point [Hiller] is going to get a rest." He also said that Toni Lydman, who missed last night with an upper body injury, is feeling better and will be available.
That starts tonight with the Ducks-Sharks game at 7 p.m.
Here's a photo you don't see every day (that's Chuy from the Chelsea Lately show, in attendance last night):
|More of this tonight, please.
Two nights ago it was the Red Wings -- a team the Ducks have faced in the postseason five times -- which the Ducks promptly trounced 4-0 at Honda Center. Tonight it's the Kings, a team the Ducks have never battled in the playoffs (the first time they both made it in the same year was last season), but one they have battled 107 times over the years. Sunday it's the Predators, a relatively fledgling rival that was born from a treacherous playoff series last year that Nashville took in six games.
Both rivalries have something in common: No matter where the teams are in the standings it always feels like a playoff game. It's gratifying when the Ducks beat either of those teams. But I enjoy beating the Kings just a little bit more, mostly because of the geographic proximity of LA, meaning we run into their fans just a little more on an everyday basis than we do Wings fans. That's why last year, when the Ducks beat the Kings on back-to-back nights to leapfrog them into the fourth spot in the West, was so exhilarating.
Passing them this season is a little more remote of a possibility, since the Ducks currently trail the Kings by seven points in the standings with 11 games to go. But that doesn't make tonight any less intense, especially since the Ducks have lost four of the first five to LA this season, and Anaheim pretty much needs to win them all from here to the finish line to maintain its postseason hopes.
"It’s a playoff game for us, but playing the Kings, it’s a big rivalry, right?" said Luca Sbisa this morning. "Guys are going to be extra fired up and they’ll be fired up as well. It’s going to be pretty emotional and a fun game to watch.
"It’s going to be a physical, emotional hard-nosed game. The guys like games like this, and the fans do too."
Now whether Sbisa and Corey Perry will play in this game remains to be seen. Bruce Boudreau didn't seem optimistic when he stood in front of reporters this morning, despite the fact both Perry and Sbisa skated with the team. "They’re starting to skate in practice, but I don’t know whether they’ll be back tonight or Sunday," he said. "It looks sooner than later though and not another week. It looks like they’ll play before the San Jose game [Monday]."
Both remain gametime decisions, but with so few gametimes remaining, Boudreau said, "We don’t have the luxury of waiting for anything. If they’re able to play, they can play."
Perry took a few one-timers this morning and said the shoulder, which he injured last Saturday in Dallas, felt "alright." He added, "Each day it feels like it’s getting stronger, so that’s a positive sign. It’s a tough decision. You don’t like sitting out, but you don’t know how it’s going to feel taking a check or whatever. It’s a lot of hockey and a lot of banging and battling for position. It’s playoff hockey, so it’s going to be tough out there. We’ll see how it is."
"It’s tough. It’s been a long time since I missed a game, especially with the dogfight we’re in, to make a push for the playoffs the last 10 or 11 games. It’s definitely not fun watching. Riding the bike and watching on TV isn’t what you enjoy doing."
Asked about his status, Sbisa said, "We’ve done a lot of treatment the past few days. It’s feeling much better, but it’s a gametime decision. I don’t want to say I’ll be able to play and not be out there. We’ll see how it feels tonight.
"You’ve got to be mobile out there, and if you’re not, guys can just take you out. You’ve got to make sure you’re 100 percent because if you’re not, you’ve got guys like Nate Guenin. You don’t want to make a selfish decision and go out there for two or three shifts and then call it a game. If I play, I’ve got to be 100 percent."
Translation: Both of those guys are more likely to be in there Sunday.
Even without both of them on Wednesday, the Ducks looked very strong against the Red Wings, thanks in part to two goals by Kyle Palmieri. The 21-year-old skated with Getzlaf and Perry this morning, and figures to be on the top unit with at least Getzlaf this evening.
Palmieri wasn't even brought up to Anaheim until last Monday (in the wake of Perry's injury) and was leading the AHL with 32 goals. Boudreau was asked today about whether he'll be up here for the rest of the year.
"He’s the best scorer in that league, so you’ve got to weigh one versus the other," he said. "You’ve got to think about Anaheim first, but at the same time, do we know him well enough to know where we slot him next year? Every day you take it and see where it is. If he keeps doing what he did last game, he’s not going anywhere."
|Remember when the guy on the left was the kid?
Last night, he had a whole new one ready for me, one I never thought I’d hear before.
“Who needs a Perry,” he said with a smile I could hear through the phone, “when you’ve got a Palmieri.”
Indeed, the second straight absence of Corey Perry last night was overshadowed by the work of the 21-year-old Palmieri, who had two goals and contributed to another to help the Ducks trounce the Red Wings 4-0.
It was a depleted Red Wings squad, which again was missing stalwarts Nicklas Lidstrom (bruised ankle) and Pavel Datsyuk (knee surgery). But I don’t care if it’s the entire Grand Rapids Griffins roster wearing those red-and-white unis with the winged wheel. The Red Wings are still the Red Wings, and there is nothing quite so satisfying as beating them. And shutting them out, well that’s a whole different story.
Last night’s blanking, thanks in part to 23 saves by Jonas Hiller, was only the second time in history the Ducks had shut out Detroit (the last coming in May of 1997) and the first time at home. And it came on a night when the Ducks were also missing minutes-eating defenseman Luca Sbisa, who missed a second straight game with back spasms.
“Really?” said Bruce Boudreau after being told it was just the second shutout in 72 games against Detroit. “That seems…that’s really wild.”
All the scoring the Ducks needed was provided by a 21-year-old who came into the game with two career goals, and a 41-year-old who had 659 in his back pocket. Both Palmieri and the aforementioned Selanneeeeeeeee scored in a three-goal barrage in the second period, and it was Palmieri’s pressure on goalie Joey MacDonald, that made Bobby Ryan’s goal in that period possible.
Selanne led things off in that period with a workmanlike power play goal, forcing the puck past MacDonald after Cam Fowler had thrown it on net from the wall. It was his 1,400th NHL point, and it came in front of his boyhood idol Jari Kurri, who happened to be at the game, just two nights after Selanne passed him on the NHL scoring list.
Later in the period, Palmieri provided a beauty of a goal, stripping the puck from a helpless Brendan Smith before going right to the net and backhanding it top shelf (please excuse John Ahlers calling him Bobby Ryan on the video). It looked a little like a certain Ducks legend doing much the same thing in a certain overtime game against the Wings back in ’07, but we won’t go there.
Later in the period, Palmieri hovered over MacDonald enough to force him to stick away Ryan Getzlaf’s pass right to the actual Ryan, who promptly banged it home. And then in the third, the Ducks already comfortably in front, Palmieri artfully reached back to grab a Getzlaf pass, stayed onside and crashed the net for the pretty backhander.
Afterward, Palmieri did what any 21-year-old kid would do to describe a night like that: He used the word “awesome.”
"It was an awesome night for me," said Palmieri, who had an AHL-leading 32 goals in 42 games at Syracuse before being called up on Monday. "I was lucky enough to score two tonight. Confidence, it definitely feels good. Hopefully going forward, I can keep making an impact on the game and help this team put together a nice win streak."
The Ducks took today off from practice, but tomorrow they face another disliked archrival, as the Kings come into town for a Friday night battle. We’ll see if Perry is available for that game, and we’ll also see what Palmieri might do for an encore.
Most of all, I’m just wondering how my dad will describe it afterwards.
|One guy is out tonight, and one guy is questionable, but you've still gotta love this photo.
Detroit will be without two of their legends -- defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom and center Pavel Datsyuk -- when they revisit Honda Center to face the Ducks tonight. The 41-year-old Lidstrom is set to miss his eighth straight game (he's never missed more than seven in a row) because of a deep bone bruise in his ankle. Datsyuk has been out since mid-February after having knee surgery, but could be back by this weekend. Meanwhile, Todd Bertuzzi has been out with a sore groin but says he's returning tonight to face his old team.
(Here's something weird I learned today: I checked to see when Datsyuk won the Hart Trophy, and he never has. I was certain he won at least one. Did you know that since 1963 only one Red Wing has won the Hart? Sergei Fedorov in 1994. Crazy.)
Detroit had also been without goalie Jimmy Howard (groin injury) for three games, but got him back last night in LA, where the Wings suffered a 5-2 loss to the Kings.
The Ducks, of course, aren't feeling sorry for the Wings in the least, especially because both Corey Perry and Luca Sbisa are questionable to return from injuries tonight. Perry snapped a 272-game streak when he sat out the overtime loss in Colorado with shoulder soreness. Sbisa missed his first game of the season with back spasms that flared up after he took a shot in the morning skate in Colorado. "I felt like someone stabbed me through the muscle into the lung,” he said.
Both are gametime decisions, though Bruce Boudreau indicated this morning that Sbisa is more likely to be in the lineup than Perry. “I just don’t know whether they’ll play or not," he said. "We’ll see by game time. They’re both being worked on. It’s the proverbial gametime decision.”
With or without them, the Ducks are seeking their first win of the season against the Red Wings -- or at least the 20 guys in the Red Wings jerseys tonight. One of the few stumbles on that successful eight-game trip the Ducks slogged through last month was the 2-1 shootout loss at Joe Louis Arena that led it off.
Joey MacDonald beat the Ducks that night, only giving up one George Parros goal, and he'll be back in there tonight. Anaheim actually had MacDonald in their system after trading a seventh-round pick to Toronto for him in 2010, but he never played a game for the Ducks. In net tonight for Anaheim will be ... okay, you know that already.
The Ducks, of course, are looking to snap a three-game losing streak that put a serious damper on their playoff hopes. Boudreau said yesterday that his team pretty much has to win all of the final 12 games to have any hopes for the postseason.
"Either that," he said, "or a lot of teams have to forfeit some games."
But, he added, "Until I look and do the math and we're six points out with two games to go or things like that, we're going to fight and see where it leads."
The photo at right pretty much tells the story: Teemu Selanne acknowledging a major milestone in his sparkling career, but not looking all that interested in celebrating it.
Last night in Colorado, Selanne scored a late power play goal to give him 1,399 career points, passing Jari Kurri to become the highest-scoring Finnish player of all time. And while that goal came in typical Selanne fashion -- tying a must-win game with less than four minutes left -- its drama was dampened by a painful loss in overtime. Gabriel Landeskog, the 19-year-old rookie most likely to win this year's Calder Trophy, capitalized on a Ducks turnover, blasting a slap shot past a helpless Jonas Hiller to break the Ducks' hearts 1:52 into OT.
"That doesn't really make me happy right now," Selanne said about the milestone. "The win was the only goal we had. We couldn't do it.
"Obviously it's a big honor. Like I said, it doesn't feel much better. Very disappointing."
The Finnish Flash has hit a few big numbers against the Avalanche -- his 600th goal in March of 2010 at Honda Center, his 500th in November of 2006 at Pepsi Center. And while he may remember passing Kurri in Colorado, he'll also remember it as the place his Ducks' playoff hopes took a big hit. The same goes for Saku Koivu, who played in his 1,000th game last night, becoming just the fifth Finn to reach that mark.
Last night's loss, the third straight defeat on this make-or-break road swing, put the Ducks nine points behind those Avs for the last playoff spot in the West with just 12 games to go.
While both Finns reached milestones, it was also a groundbreaking night for Anaheim because Corey Perry didn't play. The shoulder injury Perry suffered Saturday night in Dallas proved too painful to play with, and Perry sat out for the first time in 272 games. And he was missed, as the Ducks put 40 shots on net during the night, but only got two past Semyon Varlamov.
Perry skated for just 15 minutes at today's noon practice at Honda Center, and the Ducks will hope to get him back for Wednesday night's game here against the Red Wings, before which Koivu will be honored for No. 1,000.
By the way, we've gotten into using the growing social media outlet Pinterest a lot more to "pin" great Ducks photos, fan comments and other fun content. Check out this page to see the latest and greatest tweets and Facebook posts from our fans and others. Here are a couple of good ones from last night:
|Koivu will play in his 1,000th tonight in Colorado.
Perry suffered a shoulder injury on a controversial hit into the boards by Stephane Robidas in the second period on Saturday night in Dallas, a 2-0 loss the Ducks could not afford to take. Perry tried on a couple of occasions to get back into the game, but despite x-rays being negative on the shoulder, the pain was too much to bear.
“He’s got a lot of character,” Bruce Boudreau said. “A lot of gumption and a lot of everything else that’s positive. Tried to go twice and just couldn’t go.”
Perry would love to get back in there tonight, but Boudreau said he is doubtful while maintaining that he is "100 times better" than he was on yesterday's off day and a gametime decision for tonight. Perry was not on the ice for the skate this morning, replaced on the top line by recent call-up Kyle Palmieri. Afterward, Perry told reporters he is "50-50" and that there is still enough pain to keep him from shooting the puck since Saturday. If he's not in there tonight, it would break a string of 272 consecutive games for the reigning MVP.
Meanwhile, one Duck guaranteed to be in there tonight will be Saku Koivu, who is playing his 1,000th career game -- a notable feat for a guy whose career was derailed by cancer 10 seasons ago in Montreal. "It means a lot of years in the league and a lot of hours at the rink," he said. "It's a milestone you don't see often. It's a lot of years and a lot of games, and it means a lot to me.
He told the OC Register that his mother, Tuire, sent him congratulatory note on the milestone, but insisted he won't open it until after tonight's game. And he himself knocked on the wooden bench he was sitting on before talking about what 1,000 means to him. "Obviously with the cancer, and not knowing what the future will bring and if I will ever play again, it's been 10 years and I'm still around. So it's a great accomplishment and I'm very proud of that. I'm going to enjoy it tonight."
Koivu will be honored in a special pregame ceremony before Wednesday night's game against the Red Wings at Honda Center.
"For him to battle cancer and come back, the other injuries he's had and to battle back, to reach 1,000 games, it's a pretty incredible number," Boudreau said. "Hats off to him. It says a lot about his tenacity and his desire. That's why he was captain in Montreal.
While the Ducks' playoff hopes are getting slimmer -- eight points back of eighth with 13 to go -- Colorado is making a bit of a charge. The Avs have won seven of their last 10, and their 76 points is tied with Calgary in eighth and the Kings in ninth. The Sharks, meanwhile, as on a stunning slide in which they're 2-6-2 in their last 10, have lost five straight and tumbled to 11th.
Remember, tonight's game is on NBC Sports Network (the former Versus) so look for it there on your guide.
|Perry rose (Ducks' only goal) and Perry fell in St. Louis.
But excusable or otherwise, losses of any kind aren’t a luxury the Anaheim Ducks can afford right now. That’s especially true on a rare night when the NHL scoreboard was kind to Anaheim. The ninth-place Kings lost to the Blue Jackets, 10th-place Colorado went down at Nashville and San Jose managed just a point against Dallas (could have been worse since the Sharks led by a goal late in regulation).
You can look at that one of two ways: 1. It’s good the Ducks didn’t lose much ground in the race, or 2. They missed a golden opportunity to make a move. With the clock ticking on their season (14 games left and seven points back of eighth) we have to look at the latter.
Now these next two games on this trip – tomorrow at Dallas and Monday at Colorado – which were once looked at as critical, are now absolutely vital to the Ducks’ existence in this postseason hunt.
“Obviously the next two are going to be the biggest games of the year,” Teemu Selanne said. “We all know that. We all know what the number is going to be to make the playoffs and how many we can lose and how many we’ve got to win.
“But we keep fighting.”
|This probably won't be happening tonight against Brian Elliott. That's because Jaroslav Halak is starting in goal.
That's got nothing on what the Ducks are facing right now.
Starting tonight in St. Louis, Anaheim faces three games in five days, all three of which come against teams - the Blues, Stars and Avs -- already securely in playoff position or knocking on the door. And at a time when the Ducks can afford few losses with 15 games to go, they need something special on this trip to make that hopeful charge into postseason contention.
Remember how that eight-game day trip started in Detroit, which felt like starting the LA Marathon with a run up the Coliseum bleachers? Even though Detroit hadn't lost at Joe Louis Arena in 18 games (and went on to win a record 23 straight), the Blues' actually have more points at home than the Wings do this season. At the Scottrade Center, they've only lost in regulation four times.
And as much as we've been reveling in the Ducks' stellar record since January 1 (19-7-4 for 42 points), the Blues have been a little better since that time (21-6-2 for 44 points). The difference is, St. Louis was already looking pretty good going into the new year, having made a coaching change in early November that completely turned their season around.
After starting the year 6-7-0, the Blues brought in Ken Hitchcock, a Stanley Cup winner in Dallas who was fired after the 2009-10 season by Columbus. Since he came in, the Blues have gone 36-11-7. Thanks to a stretch in which they've won six of seven, they are now in first place in the Western Conference, one point ahead of Vancouver and two ahead of Detroit in the Central Division.
"They're big," said Bruce Boudreau, who wasn't all that happy with his troops during an early practice yesterday before hitting the airport. "They're strong. Well coached. They've got great goaltending. Other than that, they (stink)."
The Blues have gotten equally good goaltending from both Jaroslav Halak and Brian Elliott, both of whom have goals-against averages under 2.00. But Halak will get the nod tonight (obviously in reaction to the bad goal Elliott gave up to Corey Perry during All-Star Weekend). The Ducks will start ... alright, you know the answer to that.
This is the third of four times the Ducks and Blues will play each other, as they both have earned 4-2 victories at home this season. They face off again March 21 at Honda Center, a time Anaheim can only hope they're still fighting for their playoff lives. After this trip, they face a rivalry-laden trifecta of Detroit, LA and Nashville at Honda Center.
They go into tonight six points behind San Jose for the eighth spot.
So we can look at this one of two ways: 1. This is going to be an incredibly difficult road for the Ducks to get into the postseason or 2. If they do pull it off, they'll be the hottest playoff team in the NHL.
When a team is down, when they've hit a lull, when they're struggling to get things going, sometimes it just takes one big play to provide that spark and change everything.
And there is no better guy on the Anaheim Ducks to provide that igniting play than one Bobby Ryan.
He's done it time and again over highlight-filled career, and did it last night at Honda Center. The Ducks had come out of a second period in which they were outshot 22-8 by the Edmonton Oilers and were lucky to give up just one goal. The Oilers continued to have the ice leaning in their favor for the first eight minutes of the third (5-2 shot advantage), and then this happened:
We've seen this kind of thing from Ryan before: the spin-o-rama against the Kings, the cut to the net against the Stars, the thing of pure beauty against the Preds in the playoffs (the one we've seen a thousand times and still aren't sick of). Last night, a trip from behind from former teammate Ryan Whitney sent Ryan flying just as he backhanded the puck past a helpless Nikolai Khabibulin.
And while comparing this:
... to this
... may be a stretch (okay a big one), at least one other writer (and my dad) made the comparison, so I'm going with it. Of course, Bobby Orr's overtime goal to give the 1970 Bruins the Stanley Cup was much more dramatic in the scale of importance. But this one by another Bobby was pretty big for the Ducks in their desperate charge for a playoff spot. It led them to a 4-2 victory over the Oilers that pulled Anaheim to within five points of eighth.
The crowd reaction on Ryan's goal was one of the best parts, a gradually building roar that sounded like an approaching ocean wave as he sprinted up the wing, then a deafening "YEAH!!!" as he sent it off the twine, the noise lasting well after he jumped backward into the glass.
Meanwhile, Selanne's big assist on the play pulled him even with countryman and boyhood idol Jari Kurri for 19th on the NHL scoring list. After the goal, you could see Selanne handing the puck to a Ducks trainer for safekeeping. This one meant something to him.
"... I'm not really a numbers guy," he said, "but obviously any time I'm going to be tied or be at the same company as my childhood idol, it's a big thing."
And how much higher on that list can Teemu climb? Last night he was asked for the umpteenth time when he thinks his career might end. "It's like a box of chocolates," he said with a smile, "you never know."
Now while Ryan's goal gave the Ducks a lead in the third, it was the heroism of Corey Perry that sealed the deal. Perry scored twice in that decisive final period, the first coming off a Whitney turnover, as Niklas Hagman fed Perry for the little wrist shot. After Edmonton made things a little more tense with a goal on their first power play of the night, Perry slammed the door with a steal from Whitney and cruised to the empty net just as Khabibulin was heading to the bench for an extra skater.
And let's not forget the work of Jonas Hiller, who stopped 21 of those 22 Edmonton shots in that second period, and ensured things didn't get out of hand.
"He was all we had in the second period," Bruce Boudreau said. "Where it could have been 4-1 Edmonton, it ends up 1-1."
And it led to an important (heck, they're all important now) win for the Ducks, since they play three tough ones on the road. All three games -- St. Louis on Thursday, Dallas on Saturday and Colorado on Monday -- are against teams either in playoff position or fighting for it.
"We’re going into three pretty tough building here this week," Ryan said. "We have to find a way to come up with some points."
And who knows? Maybe Ryan himself will be the guy providing the spark for some of those points.
|Channelling their inner marching band, the Ducks successfully form the shape of an arrow on the ice.
When you consider the opponent, the venue, the intensity in the building, and just how badly the Ducks needed that one to keep their playoff hopes alive, the 4-2 loss to the dreaded Kings was like a punch in the stomach. (In fact, when Anze Kopitar found the empty net with 14.5 left, you could definitely feel something in your gut.)
For this Ducks fan at least, it was one of those games where you wake up on Sunday morning, remember what happened the night before and think, Damn.
But just like with the win over Calgary the night before at home, the Ducks could only afford to think about it for a few minutes -- maybe only as long as the bus ride from LA back to Honda Center -- and move on.
"Don't overthink losses and wins, and just take one game at a time," Luca Sbisa said this morning. "That's what we did back on that road trip. That was just game after game after game, so you didn't really have time to think about what you did last game. I think that's the way we have to approach the games right now."
And while the distance -- seven points -- between the Ducks and the eighth spot in the Western Conference didn't change over the weekend, the owners of that spot did. The San Jose Sharks, who have seemingly bought real estate in the top three spots in the conference over the past several seasons, have gone into a very un-Sharkslike tailspin that has seen them land in eighth. Dallas, which was entrenched in that slot for the past couple of weeks, beat Calgary yesterday on a Sunday that definitely didn't go Anaheim's way.
The Stars' shootout win meant they got two points (to move into seventh with 75) but the Flames also got a point to move four points ahead of the Ducks. Meanwhile, Colorado downed the reeling Wild 2-0 to move six ahead of the Ducks and one out of eighth. We've said it a million times, but it's clear the Ducks aren't going to get any help in their desperate hope for a postseason charge, and have to win and win often in their final 16.
That continues tonight at Honda Center against the Oilers, a quick home appearance before the Ducks have to play at St. Louis (second), Dallas (seventh) and Colorado (10th) in a five-day stretch.
The Oilers have had the No. 1 pick in the draft the last two years (Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins) and appear headed for a high pick again this June. They're 10 points behind the Ducks in 14th and have dropped six of their last nine. The Ducks took them down 5-0 in Edmonton back on January 13, part of Anaheim's torrid two-month stretch. Hall, by the way, has a bum shoulder, but did skate with the team this morning, and is expected to play.
Tonight is actually the first time the Oilers have been to Anaheim this season, as the two teams will face each other three times over the final five weeks of the season.
The good news for the Ducks tonight is that nobody in that crowded bunch of eighth-chasers is playing tonight, so a win puts the Ducks five back.
"I've looked at every team's schedule many times over," Bruce Boudreau said. "If we do what we're supposed to do ... there's still 98 points on the board, and if we win them all, I don't think it will take 98 point to make the playoffs. So that means we're still eligible to play."