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Lightning @ Ducks Preview: Patching Things Up

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Anaheim enters tonight's game desperately trying to put an end to their recent struggles, including a 5-3 loss to this Tampa Bay team just a week and a half ago.

Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Things haven't been looking good for our Anaheim Ducks as of late, friends. They returned home from a less than ideal road trip on Sunday night only to get served by the Washington Capitals for the second time in just over a week. Nashville has taken advantage of Anaheim's recent slump and opened up a somewhat sizable gap between the two teams for the West's top spot, a space wide enough for the St. Louis Blues to slide into, dropping the Ducks into third place in the conference. Furthermore, tonight's guests, the Tampa Bay Lightning, will be looking to rebound from a Monday night loss to the Los Angeles Kings, who if you haven't noticed are now winners of five straight and appear to be in the midst of their annual tradition of playing "be bad until January/February then start beating everybody" hockey. To cap it all off the Ducks announced yesterday that Matt Beleskey and Sami Vatanen will be sitting out with injuries for the next 2-4 and 4-6 weeks, respectively. Needless to say, all of the small backstories of this game are just GREAT.

Hopefully, the Ducks can begin to turn around their bad fortune tonight, but against a team that's as good as Tampa Bay, that is much easier said than done.

Game Notes: It's no secret to most Ducks fans that the Achilles heel of this team, by a long shot, is the defense, and it's been very much exposed over the last few weeks. Kid Ish recently put together an analysis of the team's blueliners and their poor play during most of their abysmal road trip; if you haven't gotten the chance to read it yet, I recommend doing so here.

The argument can be made for this slump beginning just before the poor stretch away from Honda Center; on January 29th in San Jose, to be exact. Two of the most basic statistics in the game do an adequate job of showing that the defense has just not been able to stave off opposing attacks very effectively.

Goals Allowed Shots Allowed
@ San Jose 6 33
vs. Chicago 4 33
vs. Carolina 4 32
@ Nashville 2 46
@ Washington 3 34
@ Tampa Bay 5 23
@ Florida 6 26
@ Carolina 1 36
vs. Washington 5 28

Ironically enough, the two games in which the team surrendered the most shots are the ones that they allowed the fewest goals for. However, if it wasn't for stellar performances by Frederik Andersen and John Gibson, the Predators and Hurricanes would have likely contributed another 4 or 5 to the "goals allowed" column. With respect to these numbers, Anaheim has been putting up Buffalo-esque numbers, which, obviously, is a very bad thing.

Goals Allowed Shots Allowed
Recent Average 4 32.3
NHL Average 2.69 29.8

At the risk of beating a dead horse, the defensive woes are one big problem that needs to be remedied ASAP. Unfortunately, this struggling unit will be staring down the league's top offense in the Lightning tonight, a team that lights the lamp at a 3.2 goals per game pace.

What Can We Learn From This Game: Is John Gibson really ready to retake his full-time NHL role? The young tendy will likely be making his third straight start tonight in Frederik Andersen's absence, and after looking incredible against Carolina, and unremarkable against Washington and Florida, it's still up in the air as to whether he'll return to his last season form. When a goalie's reliability is still in question, you're hard pressed to find any one-game scenario that makes a stronger case than squaring off against the NHL's top offense with a floundering defense in front of you.

Fearless Prediction: Ryan Getzlaf, fueled by Alex Ovechkin's hair comments, gets a hat trick tonight, propelling the Ducks to a much needed win. The defense doesn't get everything figured out on their end though, so if you're a gambler, go ahead and take the over by about four or five goals.*

Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.

*Author not responsible for any money lost from taking the over by about four or five goals