By Kyle Shohara
The Ducks conclude a four-game road trip tonight against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the Consol Energy Center (4:30 p.m. PT, NBC Sports Network, AM 830).
Anaheim’s recent schedule has been unforgiving. After an eight-game, 15-day road trip from October 22-November 4, the Ducks returned home for a brief three-game homestand that began just two days after playing in New York. Then, two days after their homestand finale against the Canucks on November 10, they found themselves in Florida for the start of this current four-game trip. But the Ducks aren’t about to use travel as an excuse, and will look to jump on a Penguins squad that’s lost four of its last five, and five of its last 10.
“They scored one goal, but I’ve watched all their games,” said head coach Bruce Boudreau, on the Penguins’ last five contests. “It’s not like they’re not controlling the game. Every game they’re playing, they’re controlling the game. They’re just not scoring. That’s the part that scares me. They’re still playing really well.”
As reported yesterday, forwards Matt Beleskey and Saku Koivu participated in the team’s full practice, but their return to the lineup remains to be seen. Both are game-time decisions tonight. For what it’s worth, Beleskey played three games on a Long-Term Injury Conditioning Loan with Norfolk last week.
“I think he’s happy to be back,” said Boudreau. “He’s a valuable member of our team, and when we’re able to get him in the lineup, we will.”
Viktor Fasth is expected to get the start tonight. The 31-year-old is coming off a 21-save performance in Anaheim’s 3-2 shootout loss at Carolina on Friday night.
LOVEJOY RETURNS TO PITTSBURGH
Tonight marks the return of defenseman Ben Lovejoy, who spent parts of five seasons with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Originally undrafted, Lovejoy was signed as a free agent by the Penguins on July 7, 2008, and made his NHL debut on Dec. 8, 2008. Perhaps his most memorable moment in a Penguins jersey occurred on Dec. 22, 2010 when he scored his first career NHL goal. Shortly after, Lovejoy took a slap shot off his cheek, causing the left side of his face to swell. The incident was well documented in HBO’s 24/7 series.
“Huge game,” Lovejoy said at the time. “Something you dream about scoring in the NHL. To do that, that was fun. I got in a fight and got hit in the face with a slap shot. I will be able to tell my kids about this day, someday.”
EXPECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Dustin Penner-Ryan Getzlaf-Corey Perry
Matt Beleskey-Nick Bonino-Teemu Selanne
Andrew Cogliano-Daniel Winnik-Devante Smith-Pelly
Emerson Etem-Mathieu Perreault-Kyle Palmieri
Hampus Lindholm-Francois Beauchemin
Cam Fowler-Ben Lovejoy
Luca Sbisa-Bryan Allen
Anaheim and Pittsburgh open a two-game season series tonight at Consol Energy Center. The Ducks own an all-time record of 10-12-2 against the Penguins, including 3-8-0 in the Steel City. The Ducks have won the last two games over the Penguins: a 2-1 win on Feb. 15, 2012 in Pittsburgh and a 3-2 victory on Nov. 5, 2010 at Honda Center. Anaheim's club-best winning streak against Pittsburgh is three games, set twice (last: Oct. 27, 1999-Dec. 15, 2002). Teemu Selanne leads active Ducks scorers in career scoring vs. the Penguins, earning 13-21=34 points (13g/21a) with 14 PIM in 21 games.
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