Last night Jen wrote, "Hockey has officially returned to Southern California". Well, judging by last night's 5-0 trouncing in the hands of the Vancouver Canucks, hockey may be back but the Ducks haven't even shown up yet.
For the first time this season, the Ducks are reeling. Nobody expected them to go 48-0-0, but after a commanding 7-3 win in Vancouver on Jan.19, and a 5-4 come-from-behind win in Calgary on Jan.21, last night's performance was the polar opposite of what Ducks fans have witnessed thus far.
As terrible as the penalty kill has been (6 for 13, 46% conversion rate), it's not the only problem, there are also serious issues in the top six. For once we aren't talking about a revolving door on the top line's left wing (Kyle Palmieri has looked fantastic rolling with the Twins), or Ryan Getzlaf's motivation, but the second line. It still appears the Ducks haven't found a second line center, as Nick Bonino has yet to click with Bobby Ryan and Teemu Selanne. Ryan, who has been invisible this season, and Selanne, who isn't the world's greatest even-strength player, just don't seem to mesh with each other, or Bonino. Combining for only one goal and one assist at even-strength, something needs to change.
The fourth line might see a different look tonight, as Devante Smith-Pelly has looked particularly underwheliming in his first three games. Peter Holland saw game action for the first time last night, as the Ducks scratched gifted youngster Rickard Rakell for the first time this season. Also, free agent signing Brad Staubitz is waiting for his turn to crack the lineup as a bottom-six player.
Last night, the defense wasn't spectacular either. Luca Sbisa most notably looked horrendous, giving up a penalty shot to Alex Burrows in the first period, while Bryan Allen and Francois Beauchemin have looked unstable in their own end. For the tremendous play Cam Fowler has shown this season, he can't cover for the deficiencies of his counterparts. [Ed. Note: Especially considering, they're there to cover his defensive deficiencies. -CK]
With tonight being the second game of a back-to-back, the Ducks will likely look to Viktor Fasth in goal to relieve Jonas Hiller, who surrendered five goals last night and was credited with the loss. Fasth played in his native Sweden during the NHL lockout, for Tingsryds AIF of Sweden's HockeyAllsvenskan. In 13 games, Fasth posted a miniscule goals against average of 1.68, and a save percentage of 0.942. Should Boudreau decide to go with Fasth, it will be the goaltender's NHL debut.
Tonight, the Ducks welcome the 1-1-2 Nashville Predators to the Honda Center. Playing without Ryan Suter, Nashville has been led by Martin Erat (2G, 2A) and Patric Hornqvist (1G, 3A). There has been a budding rivalry between the Ducks and Predators over the course of the last two years, peaking with their 2011 Quarterfinal Playoff battle, where the Predators prevailed 4-2 over the Ducks' then-Hart and Rocket Richard Trophy winner Corey Perry. This will be the first time Anaheim has ever played against Nashville without Jordin Tootoo (here's a trip down memory lane with Getzlaf). And of course, the Preds are reinforced on the back end by all-NHL goaltender Pekka Rinne, and defenseman Shea Weber.
UPDATE (1:12): Per Stephens, Rakell and Staubitz in the lineup. Lines look like this:
Palmieri - Getzlaf - Perry
Ryan - Bonino - Selanne
Cogliano - Koivu - Winnik
Beleskey - Rakell - Staubitz
Fowler - Allen
Beauchemin - Lydman
Souray - Sbisa