Despite minimal offensive production, there's little doubt that Scott Niedermayer's presence alone has helped make the Anaheim Ducks a much better team.
The Ducks seek a season-high fifth straight victory as they continue a four-game road trip Saturday night against the Calgary Flames.
While waiting for Niedermayer to decide whether he wanted to retire or return to the defending Stanley Cup champions, the Ducks struggled to a 15-15-4 record in the first 2 1/2 months.
Since losing Niedermayer's season debut 2-1 in a shootout to San Jose on Dec. 16, Anaheim (19-15-5) has matched a season best with four straight wins.
Although Niedermayer has only two assists in five games, having a future Hall of Famer in the lineup has helped ease the burden on the rest of the team, particularly captain Chris Pronger.
The Ducks also traded for veteran center Doug Weight on Dec. 14, and he scored the tiebreaking goal with 3:39 left in regulation Thursday in a 2-1 win at Edmonton.
"Obviously since Dougie came over and Scotty came back it's been really good," Pronger said. "The distraction of what Scotty was going to do and what he wasn't going to do isn't there any more. Having a guy like that back and then adding Dougie for that second line as well, it certainly gave us a center who has been able to produce all throughout his career."
Goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere may be playing the biggest role in Anaheim's resurgence. He is 3-0-1 with one shutout and a 0.98 goals-against average in his past four starts.
"We're playing much better than we were at the beginning of the season," Giguere said. "I think we finally have our game together and have figured out what we need to win. Having Scott back really helps and you add a guy like Doug Weight and that makes for a strong team."
Despite their recent success, the Ducks haven't produced much offense lately. They have scored two goals or fewer in six of the last seven games, and are 3-for-23 on the power play in that span.
Ryan Getzlaf - the team leader with 38 points - has gone a season-high eight games without a goal.
Anaheim was without checking center Samuel Pahlsson on Thursday, and he will not play in either of the next two games due to an abdominal injury.
The Flames (17-14-7) failed in a bid to match a franchise record with their seventh straight road win, falling 5-3 to Vancouver on Thursday.
Miikka Kiprusoff had one of his worst games of the season, allowing five goals on 20 shots before he was replaced by Curtis McElhinney in the third period.
"It wasn't our best game, it wasn't my best game, either. If you let five goals in you haven't done your job," Kiprusoff said. "I'm not happy with that. I'd like to play better, but I can't do anything about it now."
Captain Jarome Iginla scored his 25th goal for Calgary, which suffered its first regulation in December (7-1-4).
Iginla, who has 12 goals in 12 games this month, is on pace for his best season since he scored a career-high 52 in 2001-02.
The Ducks had lost six straight at Calgary before Giguere made 38 saves in Anaheim's 4-1 victory on Nov. 29. Anaheim has won three of the last four overall meetings.
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