With two full days back in the southern California sunshine, the Anaheim Ducks begin the first of a three-game home stand hosting a Nashville Predators team that played yesterday afternoon in Los Angeles.
Ducks: Thursday, 10/29 at St. Louis. "Heartbreaking Ricochet Goal Downs Ducks 2-1 In St. Louis"
Predators: Saturday, 10/31 at Los Angeles. "Kings Ruin Halloween, Predators Pick Up Point"
After returning to practice in southern California yesterday, the Ducks were saying all the right things in support of head coach Bruce Boudreau as well as righting the ship. General manager Bob Murray made a statement that should momentarily call off the national media barking dogs, wanting to give both the coach and team additional time to try and right the ship before making a major move.
Anaheim has five players that have attempted 20 or more shots through the first ten games; Corey Perry, Ryan Getzlaf, Hampus Lindholm, Jakob Silfverberg, and Sami Vatanen. Those five have combined for three goals on 105 shots, a 2.9% shooting percentage. The only players on the Ducks currently shooting above league average are Mike Santorelli (22.2%), Lindholm (9.5%), and Shawn Horcoff (9.1%). Anaheim is scoring on 3.6% of their shots in all situations; since 05-06 the lowest the team has shot for a full season is 8.8%, in 07-08 and 11-12.
Much is made about how difficult it is for teams to climb up the standings after falling in an early hole, with American Thanksgiving often given as a demarcation date. In the two full seasons since the NHL adopted the divisional playoff format, three teams each season managed to climb in to one of the 16 playoff spots. Last year the New York Rangers were out of the playoffs and 10 points clear back in the Metropolitan, only to wind up winning the division and claim the President's Trophy with top seeding overall. In the 13-14 season the Columbus Blue Jackets were nine points clear back of the final wild card spot on turkey day, but managed to earn the top wild card. In the last three full seasons with one-through-eight seeding, four teams each season were outside the playoff picture at Thanksgiving but found their way in at the end of the year, including the Ducks in 10-11.
The overtime defeat to Los Angeles was Nashville's second extra session loss in three games, having dropped a 2-1 decision to Pittsburgh in their final home game on October 24 before the current four game road trip. It's been 18 days since the Predators suffered their only regulation loss of the season at the New York Islanders, over which they've picked up points in six consecutive games, winning two in the shootout.
In that stretch James Neal has been the pace-setter offensively with six of his team-high seven goals and two assists. Defenseman Roman Josi has also been critical, picking up five of his team-leading six assists, while Mike Ribeiro's goal and four assists over the 18 days accounts for nearly all of his offensive output for the year. 18 players have put up points this season for Nashville, with Cody Hodgson the lone player to appear in multiple games and not find the scoresheet. During the point streak 17 different players have chipped in offensively.
This is the first back-to-back of the season for the Predators, who will face 12 over the campaign. Last year Nashville went 3-6-2 in the second half of of back-to-backs, including a 2-5-2 mark on the road. Carter Hutton was the choice goalie for the second leg of back-to-backs, going 2-5-2 with a .897 save percentage and 2.83 goals against average in them, while Pekka Rinne went 1-1-0 with a .893 SV% and 3.07 GAA. Anaheim took a shootout decision last season on January 4 with Hutton in net after Nashville had defeated Los Angeles in overtime 7-6 the night prior, then on March 15 won in regulation against Rinne the night after the Predators 2-1 win at STAPLES Center.
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.