Fresh off a full 60 minute wipeout effort, the Anaheim Ducks look to continue to keep pace in the Pacific Division playoff race welcoming a Tampa Bay team that is looking to do the same in the Atlantic Division. It's a vital non-conference game for both, with the Ducks chasing an Arizona team that is six points clear in third, while Tampa trails Ottawa six points clear and Boston eight points clear for third due to games-in-hand.
Ducks: Monday, 11/30 vs Vancouver. "Anaheim Rebounds With Shutout Win Versus Vancouver"
Lightning: Saturday, 11/28 vs NY Islanders. "Lightning Blow Two-Goal Lead Against Islanders As Special Teams Remain An Issue"
Don't look now, but that dreaded goalie conversation is once again percolating around Anaheim with John Gibson following his stellar start to the season in San Diego with an equally effective run since being called up. Frederik Andersen has been out of action since Anaheim and Tampa first met on November 21, and per John Kreiser on NHL.com he will not appear for the fifth consecutive game. Then there's this from ESPN/TSN insider Pierre LeBrun:
LeBrun: If John Gibson continues to look good for #NHLDucks, don't write off possibility of Frederik Andersen being available down the line.— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) December 1, 2015
LeBrun notes contract talks have gone nowhere on the Frederik Andersen front. RFA at end of the year. #NHLDucks— Chris Nichols (@NicholsOnHockey) December 1, 2015
With Gibson signed to a three-year deal that kicks in next season at a $2.3 mil. cap hit, and the Ducks also having Hampus Lindholm and Sami Vatanen on the backend plus Rickard Rakell and Jiri Sekac up top as restricted free agents-to-be, expect this conversation to become much more regular as the season wears on. In Gibson's four starts he's stopped 93.6% of the shots he's faced, as the Ducks have claimed five of eight possible points.
Center the Nate Thompson appeared in a pair of games for the Gulls this past weekend, a pair of wins over the Ontario Reign, and is a possibility to return against his former club of four-plus seasons. Last year, his first in Anaheim, Thompson was primarily used as a checking line center putting up five goals and 13 assists. His 13:19 of average ice time was third most amongst team centers and averaged the second most time on ice while shorthanded; at even strength Anaheim took only 47.1% of the shot attempts while he was on ice, while earning only 46.4% of the high danger scoring chances.
After a rocky start it appears Ryan Kesler may be finding his form, having put up points in the past four games with two goals (one a buzzer-beating empty net goal against Calgary) and two assists. After a five-game scoreless streak to open the season Kesler hasn't gone more than three games without a point, with nine of his 11 points coming in the 15 November games. In the last game against Vancouver, linemate Jakob Silfverberg hammered home his first non-ENG of the season, while Nick Ritchie finished with the best five-on-five shot attempt differential at +8. It was perhaps the best performance the second line has had all season, which after being in want for performance for much of the first two months is a vitally important development if it continues.
While special teams seem to be sorting themselves out in Anaheim, they remain a sore spot for the Sunshine Staters. With a power play parked at 24th in the league (16.9%) and a penalty kill crunched to 25th (76.0%), it's played a big part in the team struggling to stay above water at .500. Outside of Steven Stamkos' six lamp lighters with the extra man the Bolts have only seven additional, while in back-to-back losses to the Islanders and Washington the PK has hemorrhaged five goals against on seven shorthanded situations.
Help may be on the way as Jonathan Drouin and Cedric Paquette were back at practice the past two days while Tyler Johnson skated today but didn't take part in line rushes per Kreiser, with head coach Jon Cooper saying Drouin is likely the only non-doubtful of the injured players. Despite the Bolts taking 52.1% of shot attempts at even strength, they're only controlling 50.9% of the actual shots on goal. Of their 1095 five-on-five shot attempts they've missed the net with 251 and had 277 blocked; 51.8% of their attempts on goal, and 69.3% of unblocked attempts on target, both in the bottom-third of the league. It helps explain why they're 12th in the league in even strength scoring chance percentage, while 19th in percentage of high danger chances.
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.