Anaheim's ten-game home point streak came to a close against New York on Wednesday, as the Ducks have been going through a bit of a lull after their franchise record-setting run of form. Losses in three of the last four and a shootout loss at the front of it have helped move Los Angeles four points clear atop the Pacific Division, while San Jose is now just a point back of home ice in the opening round, though the Ducks have a game in hand.
Ducks: Wednesday, 3/16 vs New York (L 1-2). "GameThread: Ducks vs Rangers"
Bruins: Tuesday, 3/15 at San Jose (L 2-3). "Recap: Bruins 2, Sharks 3"
The Ducks have just four home games remaining follow tonight's, with just one against a team in playoff seating. Anaheim has picked up points in better than half of the road games they've played, and with eight remaining on the schedule it will likely play a decisive role in whether or not they get home ice in the opening round. Fortunately for the Ducks, all five on the upcoming road trip are out of the playoff picture, but the trip through Canada is never an easy one. The three away games to close out the season, however, feature teams in the thick of the race.
Brandon Pirri made his Anaheim debut against the Rangers, play 15:30 and skating alongside Ryan Getzlaf and David Perron on the top line, taking two shots and delivering a hit. The top line were Anaheim's only minus players in even strength attempts in the game. As a squad the Ducks had the better of the attempts and scoring chances at five-on-five, but injuries on the backend contributed to New York getting more high danger chances. To that end, Janis Carr of the Orange County Register reported yesterday that Kevin Bieksa may be able to return tonight, while Sami Vatanen skated on Thursday and Nate Thompson would skate today. The OCR's Eric Stephens reported that John Gibson was at this morning's pregame skate, after being sent home yesterday due to illness- this would be a scheduled start for him based on the two-game rotating head coach Bruce Boudeau has been using.
Boston's loss at San Jose snapped a a seven-game point streak, with four of the wins in the 5-0-2 stretch coming against teams currently in playoff seating. They'll be on the front end of a back-to-back, facing Los Angeles tomorrow night, much as New York was on Wednesday. Since the Ducks delivered the 6-2 shellacking on January 26, Boston has gone 13-6-3 and is within three points of Florida for tops in the Atlantic Division, while having Tampa Bay nipping at their heels one point back; all three teams have played 71 games, while Detroit has a tenuous hold on the final Eastern Conference wild card and is four points back of a guaranteed division spot.
The B's have been one of the best road teams in the league, going 23-8-3 away, with only San Jose having more wins as a visitor. Nine players have hit the double-digit goal total for the team, with Brad Marchand posting a new career-high with 34 tallies, besting his previous high-water mark by six. This will be the first game back in Anaheim for Matt Beleskey, who assisted on both the Bruin goals in the meeting in Boston, and will skate on the third line tonight for head coach Claude Julien. Beleskey has 13 goals and 20 helpers in 69 games this season, besting his previous career best in points set last season. Aside from the usually dangerous Patrice Bergeron (who it should be lots of fun to see match up with Ryan Kesler) and Loui Eriksson, watch out for Lee Stempniak, who has 17 goals and 30 assists on the year and has a goal and five helpers in his eight games with Boston since being acquired at the trade deadline from New Jersey.
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.