|Penguins' West Coast trip starts with nose-diving Ducks|
Things are going so poorly for the Anaheim Ducks these days that even the good news is a bad sign waiting in disguise.
The Ducks are on a franchise-worst nine-game losing streak after falling to the Ottawa Senators 2-1 in overtime Wednesday.
Just how bad was the latest in a long line of defeats? The Senators moved out of last place in the Eastern Conference with the victory, which ended their own eight-game losing streak.
The schedule seems to offer some mercy, giving the Ducks a chance to face the team they last defeated, way back on Dec. 17. The only problem? That team is the Pittsburgh Penguins, who have won nine of their last 10 games since that defeat to the Ducks.
The Penguins (24-13-6) and Ducks (19-17-8) meet Friday in Anaheim.
The Penguins' run of strong play will be tested in a five-game West Coast trip that extends until the team's week-long All-Star break. The Penguins will get the Ducks on Friday, followed by the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday. A trip to San Jose comes early next week, followed by another weekend back-to-back at Arizona and Las Vegas.
The Penguins appear to be ready.
Over the last eight games, center Sydney Crosby has 15 points (four goals, 11 assists). And goaltender Matt Murray has a personal eight-game winning streak since returning from a lower-body injury, becoming just the fourth Penguins goalie with a streak that long.
Yet, the Penguins are looking for more, even after a 5-1 thrashing of the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.
"I know we're capable of playing a much tighter game," Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said after the victory, according to NHL.com. "I think that's what we want to try to do moving forward."
For the Ducks, figuring out how to improve the offense is the task at hand.
During their losing streak, the Ducks have been shut out twice and have been held to two goals or less eight times, including Wednesday's defeat when Jakob Silfverberg scored Anaheim's only goal.
"It's just a matter of getting that first one out of the way and getting the whole team going," Silfverberg said, according to the Orange County Register. "Right now, we're playing at the end of our sticks, and our shots might not be as well-placed as before.
"It's maybe a little too much throwing the puck at the net instead of picking a corner. It's something we talk about every day. It's got to end at some point. It's a matter of bearing down and making it happen instead of waiting for it to happen."
The Ducks did welcome back Rickard Rakell on Wednesday after the center missed 13 games with a sprained ankle. Rakell played 19 minutes and took two shots on goal as he works himself back into game shape.
The Ducks will be without goaltender Ryan Miller (knee), right wing Patrick Eaves (ribs) and right wing Corey Perry (knee) on Friday. Left wing Kevin Roy, who has been out all season with an upper-body injury, is close to making a return and could soon give the offense a youthful burst of energy.
Penguins defenseman Justin Schultz is out indefinitely with an ankle injury, while center Zach Aston-Reese is day-to-day with an undisclosed injury. Aston-Reese left Tuesday's victory after a fight with the Panthers' Colton Sceviour and did not return.
--Field Level Media