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Ducks @ Coyotes Preview: Back to Work

The Ducks are headed to Arizona after a brief holiday

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Here you go ladies and gents....Here are the standings thus far out of the holiday break:

The Anaheim Ducks are nifty with a little over fifty!

Even with all the injuries along and around the blue line, the Anaheim Ducks had something to cheer about as they entered the holiday break leading the NHL with 51 points. Not too shabby!

Not to mention, the last time we exited out of the doors of Honda Center or left the couch after spending 3 hours glued to our TV's, we were left with a warm, fuzzy feeling of holiday joy and cheer after finally defeating the Pacific Division rival San Jose Sharks in Overtime. And my oh my, was Ryan Kesler's OT winner a most beautiful way to get into the Christmas spirit or what?! And don't forget the stocking stuffer that was Cam Fowler's slick move....

Game notes:

When we last left off, we received great news as Corey Perry and Francois Beauchemin were back on the ice practicing with their teammates. YAY! Unfortunately, in addition to John Gibson and Kyle Palmieri, you can add workhorse Tim Jackman onto that injury list. Repeating offender John Scott has been suspended four games for punching (and unofficially concussing) Jackman. (You're very welcome San Jose Sharks--we know we did you a big fat favor by taking Scott out of your lineup.)

Despite leading the league in man games lost, the Ducks will be coming off the holiday break and taking a short trip to Arizona as the NHL league leader. They will be entering Gila River Arena which has seen better nights.

The poor Arizona Coyotes are struggling this season. They have only won five games of 16 home games. After losing and trading some key players during the offseason, they were left with some new faces and a glimmer of hope to claw their way into playoff contention in the dog-eat-dog Pacific Division. Unfortunately, poor goaltending by starter Mike Smith and a lack of defensive support have kept the Coyotes back in standings.

All this being said, while the Coyotes seem to be dwindling this season, they do have some formidable players that cannot be overlooked. The Coyotes lost Radim Vrbata but gained Sam Gagner. While Gagner has definitely not filled the skates of Vrbata this season in terms of points, that is not to say that he does not have the skill to do so on any given night. Oliver Ekman-Larsson and Keith Yandle continue to be the pillars of the Coyotes defense and offense. Ekman-Larsson is an absolutely fantastic young and gifted player who continues to impress with his skating ability and vision on the ice. Antoine Vermette and Shane Doan also continue to contribute points offensively.

While the Coyotes have some pieces, the Achilles heel of the team remains to be Mike Smith. The Yotes seemed to have felt a sense of loyalty to Smith (most likely due to the 6-year contract they have him signed). But the abysmal play by Smith seems to have ushered in a new #1 in Devan Dubnyk. He currently sports a .920 Sv% through 12 games. Though it's difficult to say whether he is the real deal or not, Ducks may be better off expecting to face him in net.

What Can We Learn From This Game:

Last year, the Anaheim Ducks emerged out of the Christmas break and into the new year roaring. After properly shellacking the then-dominating San Jose Sharks in a New Years Eve spectacle, they rolled through most of January up to the Stadium Series against the Los Angeles Kings, where former Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller single-handedly snuffed all of LA's hopes.

Once again the Ducks have momentum on their side after finally beating the San Jose Sharks at home. It wasn't a perfect game by any means, but the Ducks managed to muster up the heart and come back to tie it up and wrap the "W" in a nice Christmas bow. The Ducks are still leaving a bulk of the work to Frederik Andersen. While he has been an absolute trooper with a stretch of 20 consecutive starts in net and making ridiculous saves all along the way, there will be times when he lets in goals--like he did against San Jose. While the defense looked much improved with the return of Hampus Lindholm, the Ducks have much room to improve defensively....

...and offensively. The Ducks are still depending on Captain Ryan Getzlaf to carry the offensive burden of the team without Corey Perry in the line up. The Perry-less top line continues to be carousel between Patrick Maroon, Devante Smith-Pelly, Emerson Etem, Rene Bourque, and at times Dany Heatley (NOOOO). Getzlaf is the key to the Ducks offense whether it be on the forecheck or on the powerplay. It has been good to see the contributions of Jakob Silfverberg, Ryan Kesler, and Matt Beleskey--but there are still players like Maroon and Smith-Pelly that need to help out with Perry out.

Fearless Prediction:

Cam Fowler enjoyed the pretty little move against the Sharks and decides, what the hell, I'm going to finally get more tallies in that goal column. Make that number five Cam.