|Ducks, Oilers have their own backs|
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Anaheim Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers will be on the second game of back-to-back contests when they meet on Sunday in Anaheim.
The Ducks continue in the thick of the Western Conference playoff race, sitting in the second wild-card spot. Edmonton is well outside the playoffs, 17 points behind Anaheim.
The Oilers (26-31-4) faced the Kings Saturday evening at Staples Center, winning 4-3 after jumping out to a first-minute, 1-0 lead. The end of the game was controversial as the Kings scored with 18 seconds remaining and then appeared to tie the game on a play that was reviewed twice.
It was originally called a goal based on the puck appearing on video replay to have crossed the goal line, but it was overturned on an Edmonton challenge for goaltender interference. Cam Talbot stopped 30 shots in the win.
The Ducks (31-21-11) were in Arizona for a late-afternoon date with the Coyotes Saturday. They allowed an early goal and a late, empty-net tally in a 2-0 loss. Ryan Miller was in net for Anaheim, making 36 saves.
Rickard Rakell leads Anaheim in points (22-26-48). He has been cold recently, though, recording points in only two of his last eight games. Center Adam Henrique has 14 goals, including six game-winners scored with the Ducks since he came to the team in an early season trade. He has also been tepid of late, with an assist in the last four games.
Ondrej Kase is second on the team in goals (17). He played his 100th NHL game Saturday versus the Coyotes.
Anaheim goaltender John Gibson is hurt once again, a lower-body injury which drove him from the net after two periods versus Vegas on Monday and has now cost him three games. This is a recurrence of a prior malady. Miller is his capable backup, posting eight victories on the year.
He held Gibson's shutout Monday versus the Golden Knights, stopping 20 shots in relief. He then turned back 41 shots to shut out the Stars two nights later. It was his third shutout of the season, the 42nd of his career. Sunday, he is the more likely starter than Reto Berra.
Miller told the Orange County Register, "It's not like my workload has been heavy throughout the year. Probably just a little different working up to the workload than being depleted by it. Let's see what Randy decides to do and then go from there."
Edmonton traded defenseman Brandon Davidson to the Islanders on Saturday. Andrej Sekera drew back in on defense against the Kings after being on injured reserve for two weeks. Patrick Maroon is on injured reserve with a lower-body injury. He has been the subject of trade rumors with the deadline approaching Monday. His contract expires at the end of this season.
The Edmonton offense features the one-two punch of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. McDavid had a hat trick versus Colorado to start last week, his second of the year. He also has one four-goal game. He sits in the top six in the NHL in scoring with 71 points. Draisaitl scored one goal against the Kings.
Against Los Angeles, McDavid collided with teammate Milan Lucic in the first period and was bent over in pain on the bench after. He did not miss any time.
Edmonton coach Todd McLellan said afterwards, "When it first happened I was concerned, but when (McDavid) got to the bench, he was winded, and it was clear that was the issue. I wasn't overly concerned after that."
The Ducks quickly reset after their loss to the Coyotes.
Ducks defenseman Francois Beauchemin said, "That Edmonton team is really talented. They don't play like a team that's at the bottom of the standings. Tonight's loss is a tough one, and that makes tomorrow even more important. It's another one of those must-win games."
Edmonton goaltender Talbot said essentially the same thing of his team.
"This (win) is a big confidence boost, but that's another tough building we have to go in and play tomorrow. We know that all these teams are fighting for a playoff position and stuff like that, so there's no easy games coming up here. It's going to be another big, heavy battle tomorrow night, and we're going to have to come in a be prepared," Talbot said.
McLellan concurred: "Anaheim played tonight as well, so both teams are going to play back-to-back, and we just get our legs underneath us again. It's going to be a tough game."
The Ducks will exit Sunday's game to enjoy a four-day break. The Oilers will move on to San Jose for a contest Tuesday.