After playing almost two full games without Corey Perry and winning both of them, the Ducks received the news that the best goal scorer in the Western Conference is going to be out of the lineup with a sprained knee for three or four weeks. The good news is that they head into tonight's game with a four game winning streak in their pocket, and they're playing an Oilers team that dropped eleven straight games before splitting their last pair against the San Jose Sharks, including a 5-2 loss last night at the SAP Center.
Perry's knee injury figures to be the most significant of his NHL career in terms of games missed. He has played in at least 78 games in all but one of the non-lockout shortened seasons after his rookie year, and in that one other season he still played 70 games. Eric Brewer, Francois Beauchemin, Ben Lovejoy, Jason LaBarbera, John Gibson, and Dany Heatley are all still out.
Rene Bourque scored his first goal of the year last game, and while both the eye test and the possession numbers indicate that he hasn't been spectacular, he may well get some chances again tonight playing if Bruce Boudreau keeps him up with Ryan Getzlaf, especially considering the well-earned reputation of Edmonton's defensive play.
Ilya Bryzgalov, who signed with the Ducks yesterday, will begin his season in Norfolk. It will likely be a couple of weeks until we see him play with the big club. Until then, expect a continuation of the heavy dose of Frederik Andersen we've seen for most of the season.
For the Oil, defenseman Nikita Nikitin and winger Benoit Pouliot are on injured reserve. In a recent "state of the team" speech, GM Craig MacTavish verbally committed to keeping his core intact while citing a weak trade market as the reason he has not upgraded his team this season. Trade rumors continue to surround the organization, as is customary for teams who have been all but eliminated from playoff contention, but a significant move has yet to be made. Forgive me for thinking that MacTavish and company are secretly excited about the first round of the 2015 draft.
What Can We Learn From This Game?
We can learn if Jakob Silfverberg is finally turning a corner on his season. He has goals in each of his last two games and points in each of his last four, but before that he had just one goal on the year. According to my eye test, he's looked very good in most of his games, but he just keeps missing his shots. According to the possession numbers, he's been pretty good but not great. Hopefully he has reached a turning point in terms of putting the puck in the net, and does exactly that tonight.
Justin Schultz delivers such a beautiful pass onto the stick of whoever scores the Ducks' game-winning goal that the Professional Hockey Writers' Association agrees to hand him the Norris Trophy before the season is halfway over.