It seems strange that the Ducks and San Jose Sharks are already nearly finished with their 2014-15 regular season series, but with a final contest remaining at the SAP Center on January 29 here we are. From the ugly, penalty-filled opening game at Honda Center to the cheap shot by resident Shark Murdersaurus John Scott in the most recent meeting, there's been a healthy amount of hate to the contests between the two teams. Currently three points clear atop the Pacific (assuming Vancouver wins all three of their games in hand), the Ducks are nine points clear of the Sharks, and will certainly be looking to bank as many points as possible to maintain/build on their division lead during a five week stretch that sees 10 of 13 games inside friendly confines.
The Ducks have hosted a New Years Eve game each of the last three full length seasons, going 2-1 and earning a 6-3 decision over the Sharks last season. Anaheim has played on New Years Eve in every 82-game season since 2008-09 with a 2-3 mark, with the 07-08 campaign being the only one in the last decade they've had the final day of the year off. While we've profiled the performance of Ryan Getzlaf during the holiday stretch from late November through December, Frederik Andersen has been regaining the spectacular form he opened the season with since the Ducks brought Ilya Bryzgalov aboard. Freddie has won 10 of his last 12 decisions, losing once in regulation and once in a shootout, but perhaps even more impressively in the last four games he's posted a .949 save percentage. Though Ryan Kesler's play has cooled over the last five games (one goal) after putting up eight points during the preceding six contests, he certainly has relished facing Anaheim's two California rivals. In his five games against the Sharks and Kings Kesler has put up six points, scoring four goals including the winner in the last meeting with San Jose and a pair of goals plus the shootout winner against LA at Honda Center.
On the second end of a back-to-back following a 3-1 home loss to the Canucks last night, the Sharks have dropped their last three games after winning five straight at home from December 9-20. With Alex Stalock taking the loss to Vancouver it should be Antti Niemi between the pipes again, but his form has been far from great since shutting out the Predators on December 13. While 2-1-1 over his last four games Niemi's save percentage has been .899, but in each of his last five starts following posting a sub .900 SV% he has bounced back to post one above that mark. As usual Joe Pavelski will have to have special attention paid to him, as the regular Duck-killer has scored twice in his last three games and has put up seven points over the last eight games. Joe Thornton is riding a four game point streak, and had the lone tally last night. Expect the usual dogged effort from the team against the Ducks, particularly since coach Todd McLellan called his team out in the media, saying "There's a price that our team has to pay to win. We aren't digging deep enough. We want everything on sale."
What Can We Learn From This Game:
Though the history trend between these teams is the Sharks out-attempting Anaheim, over the three games of this season series San Jose has only had four more shots on goal. The Teal Fish have been quick out of the gate, outshooting the Ducks in the first period in each game and holding a 21 shot on goal advantage that's translated into outscoring Anaheim 5-1 during the opening session. It would be nice to see if the Ducks can come out of the chute with some urgency and establish play early on, rather than waiting to counter against a play-driving Sharks team. Though the comeback route was almost successful at SAP Center and produced Kesler's heroics in the last meeting, it's a game plan that tempts the fates, which need little more tempting beyond the Ducks otherworldly performance in one-goal games thus far this season.
Rather than making predictions about the game, lets predict some resolutions for 2015-
Corey Perry: Make sure his future children receive all their immunizations.
Ryan Getzlaf/Ryan Kesler: Screw with Kent French by switching jerseys before he's to interview them.
Dany Heatley: Don't get booed in the ECHL too.
John Scott: Begin thinking about a career in professional wresting once he completely wears out his welcome in the NHL. After all with the Great Khali retiring WWE will need another stiff big guy on the roster, and why not replace the departed Funkasaurus with a Murdersaurus?
Chris Kober: Name his next child Richard. For serious.
Kyle Nicolas: Write a buddy cop movie starring Ben Lovejoy and Clayton Stoner. Tell me you wouldn't camp out for the opening night screening to see a movie titled "Lovejoy and Stoner"?
Kid Ish: Get hired by the Ducks not only as an analytics consultant, but to do something about that Honda Center pizza. Woof!
Anaheim Calling Commentariat: Say nice things about Bob Murray on occasion.
Have a fun, safe, and Happy New Year!