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Ducks vs Lightning PREVIEW: Thundering into the New Year.

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Ducks take on the Tampa Bay Lightning, hoping to end the calendar year with an end to their five-game losing streak.

NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning at Anaheim Ducks Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks have done a complete 180 in the second half of December. After winning six of seven to begin the month, the Ducks have lost five in a row with just one game remaining before 2019. They could really use a win to end the calendar year on a high note, but it won’t be an easy task as they face the best team in the NHL.

Tampa Bay is red hot, as they’ve been all year, going 9-0-1 in their last ten and scoring at will. Seeing the offense pick up from the Ducks is certainly nice, scoring four goals against Arizona after scoring four goals combined in their previous four games, but the Ducks will need to bring their best defensive effort into their game if they hope to stand any chance against the Lightning, who lead the league in goals for per game (4.07) and in power play percentage (30%).

Keys to the Game

John Gibson. The Ducks were downright awful in their own zone against the Coyotes, who sit 23rd in league standings. We can all hope they correct their mistakes and are stout defensively against the Lightning. Realistically though, the Lightning are going to trap Anaheim in their own zone a few times and the Ducks will need to survive the onslaught of offense that’ll follow. This survival will begin and end with John Gibson. He’ll need to be his best self and put up some highlight reel saves if the Ducks want a win.

Luck. I’m a forever Ducks hopeful and I know Gibson can steal games better than anyone, but the Lightning are just a better team than the Ducks, period. They have a destructive offense, excellent defense and goaltending, better special teams, and they aren’t dealing with injuries. Plain and simple, the Ducks need some luck to win.

Players to Watch

Ondrej Kase continues to be a standout for the Ducks offense. He knows how to get into the right places to spark opportunities and he’s one of the only players on the Ducks who actually has the speed to beat the Lightning players on rushes.

You can take your pick of Tampa Bay players, but if there’s one player I’d never want to face, it’s Nikita Kucherov. Simply put, the guy is so good it’s stupid. He might not be scoring goals at his usual pace, but he’s still deadly as ever, with 15 points in his last five game.

Puck drops at 5pm PST.