Ducks/Lightning Preview: Is This the Same Team From a Week Ago?

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa's 5-1 victory over the Ducks last week made them a perfect 7-0 against Western opponents and they hadn't lost back to back games all season. Since then, they have lost three in a row, all to Pacific Division opponents (6-3 @ Phoenix, 5-2 @ LA and 5-1 @ San Jose). Is it possible that the Ducks gave them the flu? Or maybe not having one of the top goal scorers in the world is catching up to them.

Keys to the Game: Do the exact opposite of everything you did last week in Tampa. Whether you want to blame it on injuries, travel, the flu or just the way the team is constructed, the Ducks have not been playing the most physical brand of hockey recently, and that was made painfully clear in the previous meeting with the Lightning.

They were stronger, tougher, faster and smarter than the Ducks until they took their collective foot off the gas with the game out of reach. However this appears to be a different Lightning team than the Ducks faced a week ago.

I suggested that the problem might be the lack of Steven Stamkos in the lineup, but that probably isn't the case for two reasons. First, it didn't hinder them much against the Ducks. But even more importantly, the loss of that offense shouldn't result in a team that averages 2.3 goals against per game (through 19), suddenly letting in five (or more) in three consecutive games.

What Can We Learn From this Game: I don't think anyone here really cares about anything, but breaking the five game losing streak that the Ducks are currently on. None of the above about Tampa's struggles in the past week will matter if the Ducks can't play exponentially better than they did last time. I'm pretty confident that they'll play a much better game than they did against Tampa last week, which was probably their worst of the season - definitely their worst since the opener in Colorado.

Since that abomination, they haven't been nearly as bad, but still haven't been able to put it all together for two points. The fact that they had every opportunity to beat New Jersey on Wednesday is a good sign (not great, because they found a way to lose in the most ridiculous fashion possible).

Of course we'll all be interested to find out if Saku Koivu can return to the lineup after having missed 12 games with a concussion. And whether or not Francois Beauchemin will be able to play after missing the second half of Wednesday's game with an upper body injury of his own (listed as day to day).

Finally, we might even see Tim Jackman, the newest addition to the Ducks (acquired yesterday from Calgary for a sixth rounder in 2014). He's your standard big, physical, fourth line veteran. It's an interesting departure from what the Ducks have generally tried to do under Boudreau so far, promoting youth, speed and skill throughout the bottom six (Brad Staubitz excepted). I'd expect the battle to arise between Jackman and Matt Beleskey for playing time on the fourth line, at least until Jakob Silfverberg is back and Emerson Etem or Devante Smith-Pelly are demoted.

Fearless Prediction: Ryan Getzlaf makes up for missing the previous game against Tampa with a multi-point night in front of Steve Yzerman.

Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.

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