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Ducks vs. Penguins PREVIEW: The Birdbowl Finale

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The Ducks go for the season sweep tonight in Honda Center’s first game of 2018

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Pittsburgh Penguins Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Game #46

Anaheim Ducks vs. Pittsburgh Penguins

Wednesday, January 17th, 7:00 PM PST

Honda Center

TV: NBCSN

Radio: AM 830

Your Enemy: Pensburgh


Honda Center will see its first hockey game of 2018 tonight with a matchup against the recently surging Pittsburgh Penguins. The defending champs have had a rough go of it this season, but have begun to turn things around with a four game win streak. They will be looking to extend that streak tonight while Anaheim will be attempting to string together wins as their playoff chances begin to slip.

The Penguins will have to attempt to extend their streak without the services of number one goaltender Matt Murray, who has taken an indefinite personal leave of absence from the team following the death of his father (we here at Anaheim Calling send our condolences and best wishes to the Murray family as they deal with this tragedy).

No word on who will start for the Penguins tonight with no morning skate and the team beginning the first night of a back-to-back slate against the Ducks and the Kings. Backup netminder Tristan Jarry has started the last two games for the team in the absence of Murray to great success, but the recently recalled Casey DeSmith could also get a chance depending on how head coach Mike Sullivan plays his cards.

Meanwhile, the Ducks sit only 4 points back of a Wild Card spot, but their competition is intense with 8 Western Conference teams within 6 points of each other fighting for playoff position. This makes the Ducks upcoming five-game homestand against some quality competition that much more important for the team’s playoff chances.

Expect to see John Gibson back in net tonight after Ryan Miller manned the crease in Monday’s 3-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

All Eyes On Me

After a disappointing result in Colorado (despite not playing particularly poorly) following a huge win in Los Angeles, expect to see Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf prove why he is the face of the franchise and lead the team to an aggressive start right out of the gate. Getzlaf is currently playing some of the best hockey of his career with 25 points (4G, 21A) in 21 games this season. That’s a whopping 97 point pace over a full 82 game season. Stupid, fragile, cheekbones.

Keys to the Game

  1. Fast start: The Penguins are flying high right now (flying in the sense of a penguin that is sailing through the air after sliding through the snow into the air to dive into the water to catch fish because they can’t fly I’m David Attenborough thank you for watching Planet Earth III). They are firing on all cylinders and we all know what a speedy team with the best hockey player on the planet can do to this Ducks squad. Sustained pressure with an early goal or two could help catch the Pens off-guard.
  2. Continue outshooting the other team: The Ducks outshot the Avalanche with a 53 CF% at 5-on-5 and outchanced them 23-15. The Ducks won’t lose too many of those kinds of games unless they run into a hot goaltender like they did Monday against Jonathan Bernier. Keep up those numbers and the wins will follow.
  3. More depth production: The Ducks survived earlier this season on depth players being forced into greater roles and producing just enough to let John Gibson and Ryan Miller steal some points. Now that most everyone is healthy, Anaheim seems to have reverted back to being carried by their star power. This team could use players like Antoine Vermette, Nick Ritchie, and Adam Henrique upping their offensive game to apply greater pressure and create matchup troubles for other teams.