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The Anaheim Ducks earned a huge overtime win over the Nashville Predators last week at home, and followed that with two more victories to put themselves on the brink of one of the top eight spots in the Western Conference.
This time, they'd prefer to finish the job in regulation.
If the ninth-place Ducks can do that Tuesday night in Nashville, they'll earn their fourth straight win and leapfrog the Predators in the West's wild battle for the final two postseason slots.
Anaheim (35-31-6) looked to be fading from playoff contention after losing four of five games at the beginning of this month, but has picked up six much-needed points in the past week.
Two of them came Wednesday against the Predators (35-30-7), who entered that game five points ahead of the Ducks for the West's eighth seed. Nashville salvaged a point in a 4-3 overtime loss in Anaheim and lost 3-2 in a shootout the next night in San Jose, but the Ducks picked up four more points by sweeping a home-and-home set with Phoenix, winning 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday and going 4-for-4 on the power play in a 6-2 victory on Sunday.
"We're playing desperate hockey right now," said Anaheim leading scorer Ryan Getzlaf, who had two power-play goals and an assist Sunday. "The situation is pretty much do or die from here on out. Every night is a playoff game for us, and it's nice to see that we're recognizing the situation we're in. We have a huge game coming up against Nashville on Tuesday, so we just have to continue playing the way we are."
Starting with its visit to Nashville, three of Anaheim's next five games will come against the two teams directly ahead of it in the standings. The Ducks - tied for ninth with Minnesota - must be careful, though, as St. Louis and Dallas are just two points behind them.
Anaheim's climb will likely continue if its power play looks as good as it did Sunday. The Ducks are 7-for-12 with the man advantage over their last three games after going 1-for-28 in the previous eight.
If Ducks are to make their fourth straight trip to the playoffs, they'll probably need Getzlaf to keep playing like he did against Phoenix. Prior to his three-point effort against the Coyotes, he had a goal and four assists in his previous 10 games.
"They can pretty much do anything. They're big, they have a long reach with their sticks, and they're skilled," defenseman Dan Hamhuis told the Predators' official Web site of the Ducks' top unit. "You have to try not to give them too much time out there, we need to try to get on them as quickly as we can, and just try to make plays."
Hamhuis, who along with defensive partner Greg Zanon will spend much of his night trying to contain that line, has taken on an offensive role against the Ducks this season. Five (one goal, four assists) of his 24 points have come versus Anaheim.
Nashville, which has picked up five of a possible six points against the Ducks so far, should have red-hot rookie Pekka Rinne between the pipes Tuesday. Rinne, who's 13-3-3 with a 2.12 goals-against average since the beginning of February, is 1-0-1 with a 2.99 GAA in two starts against Anaheim.
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