Friday, December 29th, 7:00 PM PST
TV: FS-W, SNW
Radio: AM 830, AnaheimDucks.com
Your Enemy: Matchsticks and Gasoline
The Anaheim Ducks are looking to rebound after turning a 1-0 lead into a 4-1 loss against the Vegas Golden Knights at Honda Center on Wednesday night. The game against Vegas brought the return of Ryan Kesler to Anaheim’s lineup, a very welcome sight in the middle of the ice. Kesler struggled for the most part (as can be expected in a season debut after Christmas), but I expect that he’ll find his legs and begin contributing more positively in the near future.
The Calgary Flames are coming off a 3-2 defeat at the hands of the Montreal Canadiens and a 3-2 shootout loss against the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night. Friday night’s game against Anaheim will be the second half of a road back-to-back, so the Ducks need to be aware that the Flames will be looking to start quickly in Orange County.
The Flames and Ducks currently hold virtually the same position in the standings, both fighting to grab one of the Wild Card spots that seem to be switching hands on a nightly basis. Therefore, it goes without saying that this is a very crucial 4-point swing on the line for Anaheim here. Re-establishing a dominance over the Flames in Honda Center would be very nice, and even nicer if it started with this game.
After blowing a 1-0 lead the Ducks received just 1:40 into the game against the Vegas Golden Knights, I am curious to see how they respond against the Calgary Flames. The defense did not have their worst showing of the season, as Vegas was only able to manage 28 shots on goal (Anaheim matched that total), so perhaps a shuffling of the lines will lead to increased offensive zone time and better possession.
All Eyes on Me
The player I will be watching the most is Ryan Kesler, as I’m sure most of you understand. He did not have the best game in his debut back on the ice against a very skilled Vegas Golden Knights team, but I am hopeful that a mediocre Calgary Flames team will help him to rebuild some of his confidence heading into the 2018 calendar year.
His line-mates of Andrew Cogliano and Chris Wagner may remain the same, but I would not put it past Randy Carlyle to try a line shuffle after the offense struggled against the Golden Knights to reunite Kesler with Cogliano and Jakob Silfverberg. The rest of the team will need to put forth a solid effort to leave with the two points, so Kesler is more of a focus point in this game for me than a “key to the game”, I suppose.
Keys to the Game
1. Start Quickly (And Don’t Blow It This Time) - The Ducks got exactly the start they needed against the Vegas Golden Knights, where they turned early offensive zone pressure into a 1-0 lead just 1:40 into the contest. This time, try not to make that the last time you score in the game. The Calgary Flames will be on the second half of a back-to-back, so ensuring that you get the first goal and keep them on their heels early is essential.
2. John Gibson - Rinse and repeat. John Gibson has been one of the largest reasons the Ducks still have a decent chance in the standings and he’ll need to continue playing Vezina-level hockey until the Ducks offense finds a groove and starts rolling.
3. Kevin Bieksa - Try not to let people walk in alone on your goaltender so they can score easy goals. Thanks.