Duck season comes to an end tonight in Nationwide Arena, as the CBJ host Anaheim in the 4th and final meeting this season. This also culminates a stretch of 9 games in 15 days, including 6 in the last 9 days. After a loss to Pittsburgh, the Jackets have gone 6 - 0 - 1 over this stretch, leading up to tonight's contest.
Anaheim, on the other hand, has lost 3 in a row, including a 5 - 2 loss at Detroit last night. That game represented the start of a 6 game road trip for the Ducks, which will go a long way toward determining their playoff fortunes.
Anaheim has had an interesting saga playing out between the pipes this season, with Jean Sebastian Giguere being sorely challenged by Jonas Hiller, who brings a 2.27 GAA and a .922 save percentage into tonight, when he is the likely starter, given that Giguere played last night. Giguere, in contrast, has a 3.15 GAA and .901 save percentage coming into tonight. Hiller has been cold lately, however, with an .860 save percentage and GAA north of 3 over the past few games in which he has played.
Anaheim won the first two meetings between the squads this season, but the Bluejackets shut them out 2-0 in Anaheim in the last outing. Anaheim has fallen into a habit of taking stupid penalties, and their penalty kill has not been bailing them out. Detroit dissected them last night. Anaheim does have a top ten power play, however. The Ducks will be a desperate team tonight, as they sit 1 point behind Edmonton for the 8th playoff spot, 4 behind Dallas and 5 behind the CBJ. The Ducks surrender games in hand to all of those squads, however.
Here are the keys to a victory tonight:
Special Teams -- Take advantage of power play opportunities, keep out of the box, and continue the strong penalty kill that has emerged of late.
Strong on the Puck -- Teams have taken to pressuring us more in our own zone, and we need to be more secure with the puck through the neutral zone and behind our own Blue Line. Can't use fatigue as a factor tonight -- this is an opportunity to make Anaheim's job just a bit tougher down the stretch, and we need to take full advantage.
Shut Them Down -- From the goal outward, we need to check hard, keep Getzlaff and company to the perimeter, and clear the pucks from the middle.
Chimera is out tonight, and Tollefson will be on the shelf for awhile, with knee issues. We picked up Chris Gratton (C) from the Tampa Bay organization today, via Howson's ever-popular waiver claim strategy, so we will have to see how that move plays out. We can set ourselves up nicely for the final big road trip of the year with a win tonight, so a maximum effort is needed. The schedule remains tough, but less frenetic from here on out.
THIS JUST IN: Chicago 3, Dallas 1. Thanks to the Blackhawks for the help!