The Anaheim Ducks are back at Honda Center Monday night to welcome former Ducks Kyle Palmieri and Devante Smith-Pelly in clash against an East Coast foe, the New Jersey Devils.
Ducks: Friday, March 11th vs St. Louis: "Turnovers prove costly for Ducks in 5-2 loss at St. Louis"
Devils: Saturday, March 12th vs Los Angeles: "Moore delivers OT winner in Los Angeles"
Is there such thing as peaking too early? Are we beginning to see the Ducks come back down to earth? These are all questions that are now beginning to plague the Ducks since they've lost three straight games.
The Ducks have been through quite the journey this season. They couldn't get things to click even with their new off-season acquisitions. Murray decided to be patient and keep head coach Bruce Boudreau behind the benches. Bruce changed his coaching direction and went with a defensive alternative. Despite the tight play, the Ducks suffered a prolonged goal drought that even had NHL analysts shaking their heads in disbelief. Then came the post-holiday surge, where the Ducks set a franchise best of 11-consecutive victories with the floodgates of goals opening up.
That brings us to this small stretch, a slight down-slide you may call it. Goals have once again dried up as the Ducks were only able to muster three goals in the past three games. What was once an 11 game streak of power play goals (19 of 43 during the win streak), is now 1 for 10.
What needs to be highlighted most of all is the steady decline of defensive play. While the Ducks were able to find their offensive ways, with the helpful additions of David Perron and Jamie McGinn, this also noticeably changed the dynamic of the shutdown defense that at emerged. While the Ducks were able to achieve a 14-game point streak, the defense was less disciplined and looser. And the defense just fell apart during the third against the Blues. Abysmal turnovers right in the slot. Four goals in the third period. It was a downright mess.
And that is exactly what the Anaheim Ducks will seek to remedy back on home ice. They will look to get back to their winning ways as they face-off against East Coast heavy weights this coming week.
A couple things to note: Shawn Horcoff who was suspended 20 games for PED use is now eligible to make an appearance. Sami Vatanen and Kevin Bieksa, still noted as questionable and day-to-day were not on the ice during Sunday's practice and are unlikely to make a return for Monday's game. But recently acquired Brandon Pirri, was confirmed to be on the ice and skating during Sunday's practice. He may very well rejoin the line-up before the end of the week.
The Devils are pretty much out of the playoff race looking in. Despite their current standing, they have been pretty successful on their latest west coast swing, beating the San Jose Sharks 3-0 and holding on for a 2-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings. Next up...Anaheim.
In his best career season yet, Palmieri makes his first return back to Anaheim since being traded during the off-season for two trade picks. GM Bob Murray made the trade in order to make space for pending free agents since the Ducks had a bounty of wingers. But in making the trade, Murray was hyperaware that this move may be regrettable as he predicted Palmieri would hit a 20-goal season. And not only has Palmieri thrived in his hometown of New Jersey, but he has thus far exceeded those predictions by racking up a career high 25 goals and 20 assists.
Devante Smith-Pelly, who was also traded from Anaheim to Montreal, and most recently traded to New Jersey, has finally found some rolling success on his new team. Since being traded to the Devils, DSP has scored 3 goals and notched 5 assists in 5 games. He's been skating on the top line as well as being given minutes on the #1 power play unit.
The Devils are in a place where the Ducks once were before the surge. The Devils are currently the lowest scoring team in the NHL with 2.2 goal per game. They have quite a handful of significant injuries indefinitely sidelining the likes of Mike Cammalleri, Jiri Tlusty, Patrik Elias, and goaltender Cory Schneider.
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.