By Amanda DiPaolo
Nashville Predators 19-13-6
Anaheim Ducks 21-17-4
Only two points separate the Ducks from the Predators in the standings, but those two points are the difference right now between making the playoffs or packing up your equipment for a long summer in the middle of April. Of course, Nashville does have four games in hand on the Ducks.
The Predators hope to make it three wins in a row when they visit the Honda Center to take on the Anaheim Ducks. The host team will also try to extend their winning streak to four games. The Ducks have won their last four home games and seek to extend that streak to five wins in a row.
If winning seems like a daunting task for the Predators given the extent of their injuries, don’t look at Nashville’s all-time record in Anaheim. The Ducks boast an 18-2-3 home record against the Predators.
Nashville opened the season at home against Anaheim posting a 4-1 win on October 9th. The season series was evened up in California when Nashville visited the Ducks November 7th and lost 5-4. Paul Mara scored in the final seconds of regulation to give Anaheim the win.
Both teams are battling injuries. Few teams in the league have suffered the season-threatening injuries as the Predators have endured, with maybe only the Islanders and Devils in worse shape for significant man-games lost.
Cal O’Reilly, tied for second on the team with points, broke his right leg during the third period of Sunday night’s game against Columbus and could miss from two months to the rest of the season. In addition to O’Reilly, Nashville has been without Matthew Lombardi since sustaining a concussion during the second game of the season in Chicago. The team is also playing without Steve Sullivan and Marty Erat. Sullivan leads the team in scoring with 10 goals (tied with Patric Hornqvist) and is tied for the lead in points with 20 (tied with Shea Weber). Erat is third on the team in points with 5 goals and 12 assists for 17 points (tied with Sergei Kostitsyn).
At the end of December, the Ducks suffered a serious blow to their offense when Ryan Getzlaf fractured bones in his face and was placed on injured reserve. Jason Jaffray remains out of the lineup and hasn’t played at all this season. Jaffray had left knee surgery. Aaron Voros has a broken orbital bone and has been on injured reserve since December 9th. Finally, Jason Blake is questionable for Wednesday’s game against Nashville. Blake is suffering from a shoulder injury.
Despite the injuries, both teams have some players who are on hot streaks. Corey Perry recorded his 21st goal on Sunday. Perry leads the Ducks in goals and has eight goals and six assists in the last 10 games.
Nashville needs to find offense from a variety of sources since not one player dominates the team’s stats. Hornqvist has goals in two-straight games, both wins for the Predators. Kostitsyn also boasts two goals in two games, giving him 14 points in his last 15 games. Finally, no one can be seen as hotter than captain Shea Weber for Nashville, who has five points, one goal and four assists in the last two games.
Special teams may be key on Wednesday night. Anaheim is 9th in the league on the power play and converts on the man advantage a little over 22% of the time on home ice. The Predators have not allowed a power-play goal in 12 chances over the last four games.
The Predators play again on Thursday night when they take on the Los Angeles Kings in the second game of a back-to-back series. The Predators have played the Kings twice this season and have lost both times.
In milestone news: Predators head coach, Barry Trotz is just one win shy of matching Dick Irvin’s total wins with the Montreal Canadiens. The Hall-of-Famer had 431 wins between 1940-55 with the Habs for sixth on the all-time wins with one team list.
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