Sharks at Ducks Preview: Long Time, No See

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks are back at home to take on the San Jose Sharks in the second part of a critical home-and-home series with their Northern California rivals.

Keys to the Game: Every time these two meet I'm always telling somebody the exact same story: whenever the Anaheim Ducks and San Jose Sharks get together the entire game swings heavily on the first five minutes. If the Sharks score, you can bet it's going to be a blowout (even if the scoreboard might not say such). If the Ducks survive, then we've got ourselves a decent game. If the Ducks score, fantastic. Either way if a goal happens within the first five minutes of the game, the team who scores it usually goes on to win. In fact, over the last three seasons, the team that scored the first goal of the game between these two within five minute of the opening faceoff went on to win four of the five games in which it's happened.

And yes, it's happened five times, and probably seven or eight if you go inside the first eight minutes. These powerhouse offenses have a strong tendency to start fast.

Point is: don't get scored on in the first shift of the game again!

What Can We Learn From this Game: The way things stand right now, I have full confidence that the Ducks could beat any team in the league in a seven-game series if the playoffs started tomorrow except for two. The San Jose Sharks are one of them. In both of the previous meetings, the Ducks have looked remarkably flat and let the Sharks more or less have their way with them all over the ice.

This time we see how the Ducks respond with their home points streak on the line.

In addition, the season series with both our California rivals are vital ones when it comes to playoff seeding, particularly with the new divisional format, so a regulation loss tonight would be devastating in multiple ways. Three games into the series the Sharks would have six points from the Ducks who would have only one.

Both of Logan Couture's last two goals have come against the Ducks, separated by 29 days. Last time out, a 32-year-old Bracken Kearns scored his first career goal, one of what seems like a now-tremendously long list of players who have scored their first against the Ducks.

What can we learn? Will this team FINALLY play these slumping players and units like they're supposed to?

Fearless Prediction: I steer well clear of New Years Eve lobster dinner for fear of choking on it.

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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