DUCKS (21-7-5) at CANADIENS (20-10-2)
TV: PRIME, RDS, CITYM
The Latest: The NHL-leading Anaheim Ducks (21-7-5, 47 pts.) play the fourth game of a five-game road trip when they take on the Montreal Canadiens Thursday at the Bell Centre (4:30 p.m. PST, Prime Ticket/AM 830). Currently leading the NHL in standings points and tied for second in victories, the Ducks have won seven of their last eight games (7-1-0), gone 10-3-0 in their last 13 and earned 47 points in their last 32 (21-6-5).
Thursday's game opens Anaheim's sixth set of back-to-back games and second of the road trip. The Ducks are 5-4-1 in back-to-back games this season, including 2-2-1 in the opening game. Dating to the start of the 2013-14 season, Anaheim is 24-9-4 in back-to-back situations and 14-3-2 in the second game, an NHL best by win percentage (.789). The Ducks, who will conclude the current road trip Friday in Ottawa (4:30 p.m. PST), will play their final game before the Christmas break on Dec. 22 vs. San Jose at Honda Center (7 p.m. PST).
Ducks-Canadiens: Thursday's matchup opens a two-game season series with Anaheim and Montreal. The Ducks are 10-10-4 against the Canadiens all-time with their record split evenly between home (5-5-2) and the road (5-5-2). Anaheim has gone 6-2-2 in its last 10 games vs. Montreal and earned standings points in nine of the last 11 (6-2-3). The Ducks were 0-1-1 against the Canadiens last season, including a 4-1 loss in their last appearance at the Bell Centre on Oct. 24, 2013. In 43 career games, Dany Heatley has collected 25-27=52 points vs. the Habs, tops among Anaheim skaters. These two teams will not meet again until Wednesday, March 4 at Honda Center.
Ducks team scope: Forward Kyle Palmieri sustained a shoulder injury Tuesday in a 6-2 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs and will miss at least the final two games of Anaheim's road trip. Forward Emerson Etem has been called up from Norfolk of the American Hockey League and skated with Matt Beleskey and Ryan Kesler on Wednesday. Etem has scored 2-2=4 points with two penalty minutes (PIM) in 21 games with the Ducks this season. Reassigned to Norfolk on Nov. 24, Etem posted three goals (3-0=3) with two PIM in five AHL games prior to Wednesday’s recall. Selected by Anaheim in the first round (29th overall) of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Etem has collected 12-13=25 points with a +6 rating and 15 PIM in 88 career NHL games. In addition, the Ducks reassigned goaltender John Gibson to Norfolk. Ilya Bryzgalov, signed to a one-year contract following a pro tryout, made a relief appearance Wednesday at Toronto, marking his debut with Anaheim and the first as a Duck since the 2007-08 season. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin, who hasn't played since Nov. 25 because of a broken finger, is nearing his return but is unlikely to play.
Canadiens team scope: Montreal will honor longtime captain and former Ducks forward Saku Koivu, but any momentum the Canadiens pick up from the ceremony may be unnecessary. Montreal has won the first three games of its five-game homestand by a combined score of 13-4, including a 6-2 win against the defending-champion Los Angeles Kings on Friday and a 4-1 win against the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday. "I think we're coming together as a team," defenseman Mike Weaver said after practice Wednesday. "With [Carey Price] in net you're able to have those huge stops, but we can't rely on him. I thought we capitalized on our chances." Weaver has not played since sustaining a concussion Dec. 6 against the Dallas Stars. The Canadiens' hot streak has pulled them into a tie with the Detroit Red Wings for second place in the Atlantic Division, one point behind the Tampa Bay Lightning.