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The Anaheim Ducks really hope their second month as defending Stanley Cup champions goes better than their first.
|UPDATE: Ducks forwards Ryan Getzlaf and Rob Niedermayer and defenseman Mathieu Schneider are each expected to play tonight. However, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle announced that the status for all three will be a gametime decision.|
The Ducks (4-7-2) will try to snap a four-game skid and avenge a shutout loss earlier this season to Columbus when they meet the streaking Blue Jackets (7-3-1) on Thursday night at the Honda Center.
The Ducks already have matched their longest losing streak from last season, which ended with them being the first California-based team to win the Stanley Cup. Anaheim hasn't lost five in a row since an eight-game slide from Nov. 3-20, 2005.
Fatigue and injuries could be why the Ducks have gotten off to a rocky start. They opened with a two-game set in London, goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere has played in just five games following offseason sports hernia surgery, and veteran defenseman Mathieu Schneider is recovering from a broken foot and has yet to make his debut as a replacement for Conn Smythe Trophy winner Scott Niedermayer.
Forward Ryan Getzlaf has missed three straight games with an injured wrist and hard-nosed right wing Todd Bertuzzi has sat out six straight due to a concussion.
Anaheim also is winless in six road games, and in fourth place in the Pacific Division with just 10 points. Perhaps the only good news for the Ducks is they're only three points behind first-place San Jose.
Corey Perry had a goal and assist in regulation, but Giguere was beaten twice in the shootout en route to a 3-2 loss to Edmonton on Sunday. Giguere, who's just 1-3-1 despite a respectable 2.42 goals-against average, gave up a late short-handed goal to Oilers rookie Andrew Cogliano that tied the score at 2.
"It's disappointing. We lost a point," Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. "I think the way we lost it - on a short-handed goal with 1:27 left - puts an exclamation mark on it, from that standpoint. We just seem to be snake-bitten."
Columbus, meanwhile, has never reached the playoffs in its previous six seasons. But the Blue Jackets have won their last three road games against the Ducks, with two of those victories coming in shootouts.
The Blue Jackets opened 2007-08 with a 4-0 shutout of the Ducks on Oct. 5 in Columbus. Pascal Leclaire made 28 saves for the first of his league-leading four shutouts, and Rick Nash had two goals and two assists.
Under defensive-minded coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blue Jackets have emerged as perhaps the most pleasant surprise in the league this season as their 21 goals allowed are the fewest in the Western Conference.
"We play a very good defensive game, and teams that play against us are having a real hard time getting scoring chances in the slot," Leclaire said after making 33 saves in a 4-1 win over Los Angeles on Wednesday. "Right now we're very sound and very aware of what's going on in our zone. We're a confident bunch now and we feel that way against everybody."
Leclaire improved to 6-2-0 with a 1.25 GAA after going just 6-15-2 with a 2.97 GAA in 24 games during an injury-shortened 2006-07 season.
Jason Chimera scored twice against the Kings, and Nash added his team-high ninth goal with a late empty-netter. He has four goals and three assists on the road, all coming in the last three games.