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Ducks v. Sharks Preview: Round Three

The Ducks return from a winning road trip to face the San Jose Sharks at Honda Center.

Bob Stanton-USA TODAY Sports

I have good news and bad news. The good news is it's late December and the Ducks are in first place in the Pacific Division and the Western Conference, plus Ilya Bryzgalov is back with fancy new pads.

The bad news is the Corey Perry, Francois Beauchemin, John Gibson and Kyle Palmieri are still out of the lineup due to injury, Dany Heatley is in the lineup and Clayton Stoner, Colby Robak and Mark Fistric have been forced to play more than anyone would have liked. Oh, and everyone thinks the Ducks started the Mumps outbreak (maybe).

Game Notes:

The Ducks are returning home after a terrible 6-2 loss in Ottawa and earning six of 10 points on the road. Meanwhile, the Sharks have climbed back into a playoff spot and are sitting at second in the Pacific Division with 42 points and a five-game winning streak. It appears that the Ducks will have to go at least one more game without Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin, as both are still recovering from injury. The Ducks have been surviving for what has been two months worth of hockey, now leading the league in man games lost to injury. The Ducks have lost both games head-to-head thus far against the Sharks 4-1 and 4-6. Expect to see Frederik Andersen back in net after finally getting a game off on Friday versus the Sentors.

The Sharks have only lost one game in the month of December and have recovered from a lengthy slump. They are seven points behind the Ducks in the Pacific Division, but they have one game in hand. These teams play two games against each other before the end of the month (both in Anaheim) leaving the Ducks with a huge opportunity to increase their lead in the division.

What Can We Learn From This Game?:

After two regulation losses to the Sharks earlier this season the Ducks will lose the series with another loss tonight. This is the last game before the holiday break and the first home game after a long road trip. It will be interesting to see if the Ducks can stay focused on playing a complete game against a division rival. Frederik Andersen should be back in goal for the Ducks, and maybe there will be a miracle and Perry and/or Beauchemin will play (probably not happening, because why waste four extra days of rest for important players when you have a seven point lead in the division before the season is half over?). We may also learn if Ryan Getzlaf's back can sustain the weight of this entire team's scoring (and his line mates Bourque/Heatley) for one more game (PERRY COME BACK).

Fearless Prediction:

Ducks lose in a shootout after giving up a multi-goal lead in the third period because... Sharks.