|Penguins hope to continue upward trend vs. Ducks|
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Anaheim Ducks host the Pittsburgh Penguins in the second of two meetings this year Wednesday night. Goaltender John Gibson earned a shutout as the Ducks defeated the Penguins in their earlier game, Dec. 23 in Pittsburgh.
Anaheim (20-16-9) lost to Colorado on Monday, but has won six of its last 10 games (6-3-1). Pittsburgh (24-19-3) rides in on a four-game winning streak. The Penguins have won six of their past 10.
The teams each have one player making news in the past week. For the Penguins, Phil Kessel was named NHL Third Star of the Week for the Jan. 8-14 period. He gained five points in two games (2-3-5). Both goals were game-winners. Four times this year, Kessel has notched three points in a game, including against the Detroit Red Wings on Jan. 13. His game-winner versus the Rangers on Sunday was the 53rd of his career.
For the Ducks, the news was not so good. Andrew Cogliano, who held the league's current iron-man streak (consecutive games played), was suspended two games for a hit on Adrian Kempe of the Kings in the game Saturday. Cogliano had played every game since the start of his career in the 2007-08 season, 830 straight contests. Doug Jarvis still holds the NHL record, at 964 games. Jarvis retired in 1987.
Cogliano struggled with his emotions as he reacted to the suspension.
"It's a tough pill to swallow, I'm not going to lie," he said. "I think I've played hard, and battled. I'm a professional, and I've played a long time."
He said that he has had support from people around the league.
"I find a lot of support. There have been a lot of people that have reached out to me that have initiated that I've done something special. The more I look back at it, it's been pretty cool," Cogliano indicated.
JT Brown made his Ducks debut on a line with Jakob Silfverberg and Ryan Kesler in place of Cogliano. Brown was picked up on waivers from Tampa Bay on Sunday. He recorded an assist.
Brown said of Anaheim after his debut, "Big, physical team, fast. I think I'll fit in right away."
On Tuesday, he added, "They're a tough team to , and that's something that fit well with me and the way I like to play."
Brown added that the number he chose, 71, was the first number he wore in youth hockey. His prior number, 23, is assigned to Francois Beauchemin.
With one game in hand on Pittsburgh, the Ducks could tie the Penguins in points with a win. This in spite of seeing almost every notable player on the roster deal with injury in the first half of the season. The team recently activated Kesler, out since the start of the year after hip surgery, and captain Ryan Getzlaf, who missed 19 games with an orbital bone fracture. Getzlaf returned wearing a visor, but he has since removed it.
Kesler has produced four points (2-2-4) in eight games. Getzlaf has notched 25 (4-21-25) in 21 contests. The team leader in goals and points is Rickard Rakell (15-17-32).
The Penguins could be without goaltender Matt Murray. Murray practiced with the team Tuesday but is day-to-day with personal issues according to the team's website. He has missed two straight games.
Penguins' coach Mike Sullivan commented, "We think our team is the hardest to when we have the balance through our lineup, when we have the ability to play four lines because we don't tax guys. That helps us to play at the pace we want to play. We really haven't been able to do that with any level of consistency up until probably the last few weeks. We're going to try and do that as much as we can moving forward because we think it gives our team the best chance to win."
The Ducks continue to play an undisciplined style. They took six minor penalties against Colorado. The Penguins are likely to take advantage of any such miscues. The Pittsburgh power play led the league coming into Tuesday's games. The Ducks penalty kill sat fifth in the NHL.
"We're just putting it in the net (on the power play)," Penguins caption Sidney Crosby told his team's website. "When it's going like that, sometimes you don't have all the zone time and it doesn't look great. But you just execute on your chances and it goes in. Right now, when we get those looks, we're doing a good job of putting it in the net."