Date: Thursday, December 27th
Time: 7:30 PT / 10:30 ET
Location: SAP Center
TV: NBCSN, Prime
It’s been a long five days since Anaheim last played in Buffalo. The NHL’s annual Christmas break could not have come at a better time for the Ducks.
The last three games of the Eastern Conference portion of the road trip were difficult to say the least. After winning the first two games, the Ducks lost the last three by a combined score of 9-2. Hopefully the holiday break allowed the team to settle down and get some quality rest in. Fans everywhere are crossing their fingers that the team is as eager as they are to see some hockey again.
Today’s matchup is against a familiar foe. The San Jose Sharks play host to the Ducks tonight at the Shark Tank.
Our California rival’s record is not as good as critics thought they would be this year. Through 38 games they are a combined 19-12-7 for 45 points and second place in the division (only two points behind Calgary for first). They have also lost three games in a row with two coming against other Pacific Division teams in overtime. Not ideal for a team that has the likes of Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Brent Burns on their team.
Things will not get any easier tonight as their star defenseman Erik Karlsson is serving the last game of his two-game suspension. Consider it a late present for the Ducks.
I’m going off the board tonight and locking in Nick Ritchie. Okay, maybe it’s not crazy to pick a player on the Ducks top line, but Ritchie’s efforts are often overlooked. While playing with Ryan Getzlaf and Ondrej Kase, Ritchie is usually in a puck retrieval mode. The big body is able to knock people off the puck with ease and distribute to Kase. In a way, he’s a Getzlaf-lite with a quarter of the talent. Still, expect Ritchie to have a solid game against a heavy team like the Sharks. I see some power play points in his future.
San Jose Sharks
Timo Meier currently leads the Sharks with .97 points per game including 18 goals and 16 assists. That’s second on the team to Joe Pavelski with 23 goals. The 22-year old winger is having a dynamic year playing with center Logan Couture, but now finds himself on the second power play unit. Pavelski has always been a thorn in the Ducks side with his power play tipping expertise, but Meier might quickly become that same force.
Similarly to Ritchie, Meier is known to play a physical game if need be. A heavyweight battle against the Ducks might be exactly what he needs to pot a few goals and help my fantasy team get a weekly victory. Watch for the ninth overall pick in 2015 to be all over the ice tonight.
Both teams are playing in their 39th game of the season tonight. The Ducks find themselves two points behind the Sharks so expect to see a motivated Randy Carlyle squad when the puck drops tonight.