So far in the month of November, the Anaheim Ducks have been showing signs that they're returning to form as the team most expected them to be this year. Their most recent game in the Music City was one that was a very respectable effort from most of the team, but unfortunately, there are no such things as brownie points in the dog eat dog NHL. Following the standard they set during their valiant comeback effort in Tennessee would be ideal if the Ducks want to lock up win #2 of the four-game roadie.
Ducks: Tuesday, 11/17 at Nashville Predators. "Rinne Robs Ducks, Anaheim Drops 3-2 Decision in Nashville"
Panthers: Monday, 11/16 vs Tampa Bay Lightning. "Panthers get 39 saves from Roberto Luongo in 1-0 shutout of Lightning"
Quite a few questions surround this Anaheim team coming into tonight's matchup. With a win in Raleigh preceding Tuesday's fruitless, but respectable, performance, are they finally turning the corner we've waited so long for them to get to? Frederik Andersen is coming off a few poor games; is he ceding the crease to Anton Khudobin for the time being? Did anyone ever get Kevin Bieksa's stick?
The last matchup against Florida was rather dramatic, to say the least. After an unheard of goal drought, Corey Perry finally potted his first of the year in crunch time back on November 4th, and Freddie stood tall in overtime and the shootout to help guide the Ducks to their first winning streak of the season. Even though two of the main suspects in Perry and Andersen were crucial in the victory, it was newcomer Chris Stewart who came through in a huge way with the first regulation goal and the shootout winner in the fourth round. With the early season scoring struggles taking their toll more often than not, it was a refreshing change of pace to see the offense put 39 shots on net. If you could ignore the fact that the home team couldn't get much in the net for most of the night, it was a strong effort from a team that had, through that stretch of time, been having trouble even connecting on passes. Tonight will hopefully provide the team with more confidence moving forward, as long as they can continue to get pucks through the third worst defense in the league in terms of that stat (31.3 shots per game).
The Florida Panthers have been a wild card in their own right for most of the season in the sense that you can't ever really predict what you're going to get out of them on any given night. The core is mostly made up of young talent such as 22-year-olds Vincent Trocheck, and Jonathan Huberdeau, 23-year-old Nick Bjugstad, and 20-year-old Aleksander Barkov, but all of them have been paced by ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr, who's already put up 14 points just 16 games into his 23rd season in the NHL. What would seem like a solid combo of youthful exuberance and veteran leadership is instead a coin flip on most nights. They're capable of lighting the lamp, but they've had to make the most of their opportunities to do so, as they're currently one of the worst teams at getting pucks to the net with just under 28 shots a night. Fortunately, even on the offensively stagnant nights, Roberto Luongo has been strong so far for the Cats. A 39-save shutout on Monday night against Tampa Bay is the latest addition to Lu's impressive .926 save percentage, which is somewhat underlooked in favor of his 6-6-2 record.
When the Panthers last met up with the Ducks, the result was essentially the Roberto Luongo Show at the Honda Center. Despite getting outshot from the jump, Florida never trailed in the game, as Anaheim native Rocco Grimaldi got his team out of the gate just five minutes into the game after finishing a small chain of drop passes in front of Andersen. For his part, Luongo kept them at bay for the next 54 minutes and 55 seconds with a few flashy stops of his own, none bigger than his robbery on Stewart with just a few minutes remaining in regulation. Against an offense who just may be starting to build a head of steam, Luongo's going to need another night like the one he had in Orange County, or at least hang on long enough to allow his offense to get a couple of goals of a head start.
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.