Three off days following their first win of the season, the Anaheim Ducks face a Nashville that is once again off to a hot start and is unbeaten in three previous home games.
Ducks: Sunday, 10/18 vs Minnesota. "Offense Arrives As Ducks Drop Wild 4-1 For First Win Of Season"
Anaheim begins what will likely be the second toughest road trip of the season, facing five games in the span of eight nights against the Central Division. There is one additional five game trip in March where the Ducks will have five games in nine nights on a Canadian swing beginning in Winnipeg on the 20th and ending the 28th in Edmonton. The longest trip of the season is a seven game trip in February that begins with the front end of a Pittsburgh-Philadelphia back-to-back on the 8th, and ends in Vancouver on the 18th after a back-to-back with Calgary and Edmonton.
There has been much discussion about the lack of early season success for the Ducks; while the offense is easy to point to with Mike Santorelli and Hampus Lindholm tied for the team lead with two points apiece, plus Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry with one assist each, the defense has had its issues as well. Though Anaheim has been top third in even strength shot attempts in all situations as well as close, the Ducks are fifth worst in the league with opponents getting 54.5% of even strength scoring chances and eighth worst allowing the same 54.5% of high danger scoring chances.
Only the currently injured Simon Despres has a positive even strength scoring chances percentage, with current top pair Kevin Bieksa worst amongst regulars at 41.9% and only better than Clayton Stoner at 36.8% for high danger scoring chances. It's been five years since Bieksa's been asked to face as many defensive zone starts as he's been drawing thus far (-7.2% offensive zone starts relative), while facing amongst the toughest competition of his career. Whether he and Lindholm can gel to be a true top pair remains to be seen; depending on how things progress it may be wise to kick around the thought of trying Lindholm with other partners, or consider trying Cam Fowler (who's had positive five-on-five shot attempts and high danger scoring chance percentages with the toughest zone starts relative on the team at -18.6%) and Despres (when healthy) at top minutes.
On The Forecheck's Power Play post for the Tampa game highlights the Nashville defense, with Ryan Ellis and Barret Jackman out for the game necessitating more minutes for Seth Jones and Mattias Ekholm as there has been a concerted effort to keep from overworking Shea Weber and Roman Josi early. The duo of Victor Bartley and Anthony Bitetto ended up trapped by the Lightning on a couple occasions, and if they go again should Ellis and/or Jackman be unable to go look for the Ducks to try and exploit them.
The Predators 3-0-0 start at Bridgestone Arena is their second best in franchise history behind the 2005-06 season, when they reeled off five straight wins on home ice to open the year. Though Anaheim has gotten the better of the 1998-99 expansion side at 35-19-7 overall, the series is 13-13-4 in the state of Tennessee. The Ducks are on a franchise record winning streak in the Music City, winning four straight dating back to the 12-13 season; from the 10-11 to 12-13 seasons Nashville rang up their most consecutive home wins against Anaheim, four.
Two hours before face off we'll have the game thread up, featuring the full Stat Pack, likely with expected lines, and of course your Numbers For Nerds. Nashville has started well once more with Peter Laviolette in charge, what do you think will be a key tonight?