|Ducks see Stars for first time this season|
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Anaheim Ducks attempt to build on a three-game winning streak fashioned on the road when they face the Dallas Stars at Honda Center on Wednesday evening.
The Ducks (30-20-11) shut out the Pacific Division leading Vegas Golden Knights 2-0 on Monday night as winger Jakob Silfverberg and defenseman John Manson registered goals.
Goaltender John Gibson earned the victory by stopping 13 Vegas shots but left after the second period with a lower-body injury. Ryan Miller replaced Gibson and made 20 saves as the Ducks withstood a frantic Golden Knights rally to end a 3-1-0 road trip. Gibson was clipped by the skate of Vegas winger Reilly Smith and is listed as day-to-day.
Health problems have dogged Gibson throughout his career and the addition of Miller via free agency in the offseason has been a key to keeping Anaheim in the mix for a sixth consecutive postseason berth. Miller has posted a 7-4-5 record, a 2.63 goals-against average with two shutouts and a .918 save percentage in 20 games.
The Ducks will need strong goaltending down the stretch as evidenced by the manner in which they have strung together wins. They beat the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild by identical 3-2 scores and surrendered an average of 38.3 shots on goal in the three-game winning streak.
Center Ryan Getzlaf has gone through a dry spell and enters the game with a seven-game goalless streak (two assists) and his offensive production is vital as center Ryan Kesler has been slow to return to his old form since returning from off season hip surgery (six goals, two assists in 23 games).
Getzlaf's linemate and leading scorer Rickard Rakell (22 goals, 48 points) has failed to register a goal in six games. Anaheim's lack of offense has increased speculation that general manager Bob Murray will swing a trade for offensive help before Monday's NHL trade deadline. Although his team has ground out wins, Murray expressed dissatisfaction with his top players' productivity.
"We need to see some desperation here," Murray told the Orange County Register on Monday. "The big boys have got to lead the way. They've got to lead the way with some desperation."
The Stars will be a familiar opponent in Anaheim's final 21 games with Wednesday's match the opener of the three-game season series.
The Stars (34-21-4) continue a three-game California road trip after dropping a 5-2 decision to the San Jose Sharks on Sunday night at HP Pavilion. The Sharks dominated Dallas from the opening faceoff as Joe Pavelski scored 27 seconds into the game that led to a four-goal first period that decided the contest. Gemel Smith and Tyler Pitlick scored goals and Ben Bishop was pulled after stopping only one of five shots in 13:32 of play.
Bishop will get an immediate opportunity to bounce back from his poor showing as coach Ken Hitchcock indicated he will be between the pipes in Anaheim and Kari Lehtonen will close the trip in Los Angeles on Thursday. Center Martin Hanzal who missed the Sharks game, practiced Tuesday and will be a game-time decision.
With offensively gifted players such as captain Jaime Benn and Alexander Radulov in the lineup -- the pair has registered identical statistics this season (21 goals, 32 assists in 59 games), the Stars are one of the most entertaining teams in the NHL but Hitchcock has always demanded defensive efficiency throughout his career. He noted that the effort against San Jose continued a negative trend and expects better against a physical Anaheim team.
"When you don't check, and you don't want to check against a good team who is ready to play, you get buried," Hitchcock said. "When you look at the last three games, we've given up so many scoring chances because we don't want to check. When we get back to that, we'll be a good team again."