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Game Preview: Penguins vs. Ducks

The Penguins head far west one last time this season. First stop: learning what we need to know about the Anaheim Ducks

Pittsburgh Penguins v Anaheim Ducks


Who: Pittsburgh Penguins (24-19-3) @ Anaheim Ducks (20-16-9, 5th in Pacific Division, 4 points out of the playoffs)

When: 10:08pm Eastern Time, 7:08p Pacific

Where: Honda Center

How to watch: ATT Sports Net (Pittsburgh), NBCSN (National), Sportsnet (Canada)


Tonight marks the first home game for the Ducks in 2018, all the brief new year they’ve had 5 games on the road (alternating wins and losses going 2-2-1) around their bye week. Anaheim and Pittsburgh met recently the final game before Christmas (12/23) in PA, with the Pens having another “dreadful” effort and losing 4-0.

Ducks fancy stuff

5v5 CF%: 46.69% (29/31)

5v5 GF%: 51.15% (15/31)

5v5 Scoring Chances For %: 46.0% (30/31)

5v5 Save %: 93.0% (9/31)

5v5 Shooting %: 8.09 (13/31)

Randy Carlyle led teams aren’t usually known for being impressive in advanced stats and this year’s Ducks are no exception - besides the goaltending. John Gibson (.923 overall save% in 34 games) has been among the best goalies in the league. 37-year old backup Ryan Miller has been worth every bit of the $2.0 million ANA gave him this season, posting a .932 save% in 12 appearances.

Story of the season

Injuries. The 3 top players on the Ducks (Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler) have all missed significant time with injury. Other than Perry (25 games) the others have missed more than half the season so far. Patrick Eaves only played 2 games this whole season. Kesler has only played 8 games but is healthy now.

Anaheim’s leading scorer is only tied-70th in the league (Rickard Rakell) with 32 points (15g+17a) in 40 games. Getzlaf does have 25 points (4g+31) in just 21 games, and he’s healthy now too. That’s a good sign because the Ducks - who made the Western Conference Finals last year, remember - have quite a bit of making up to do to pass 4 teams to make the playoffs this year.

Expected lines

Rickard Rakell - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry

J.T. Brown - Ryan Kesler - Jacob Silfverberg

Nick Ritchie - Adam Henrique - Ondrej Kase

Derek Grant - Antoine Vermette - Chris Wagner

Cam Fowler / Kevin Bieksa

Hampus Lindholm / Josh Manson

Korbanian Holzer / Brandon Montour

Not him again

With 740 career points in 920 games, Corey Perry has had a great career. There’s few teams he feasts on like the Pens though, with 13 goals (and 4 assists) in 15 career games against.

And for the good guys

Jean-Sebastian Dea has been recalled for the first time this season.

Pittsburgh only had 12 healthy forwards, Dea could just be insurance in the form of an extra body for the long road trip.

Also, Casey DeSmith remains with the NHL club. Curiously, yesterday Mike Sullivan deemed Matt Murray (who traveled with the team and has practiced yesterday) “day-to-day” with his undisclosed personal matter. So it’s yet to be seen who will be serving as goalie and backup goalie tonight, though with as well as Tristan Jarry has been playing he probably should be starting tonight no matter what.

Keys to the Game

Lotsa kills

Since Christmas, Pittsburgh has the 2nd best PK in the NHL at 96.0%. Anaheim isn’t far behind at 90.0% (t-7th). Both penalty kills have been so locked in that it would make a power play goal pretty critical. Also the 5v5 play will be all the more important, since it seems likely that the special teams will be at a stalemate if things continue to follow this trend.

“Nothing’s ever over!” -- John Rambo

Anaheim is only 17-2-5 when leading after 2 periods this season. That may sound pretty good, but it’s 29th in the NHL for win percentage in such a scenario, only league doormats in Arizona and Buffalo are worse. Pittsburgh can’t fall behind by 4 goals like they did last time against the Ducks, but if they’re down by 1 after 40 minutes, it probably shouldn’t be the end of the world. (The Pens are 14-0-0 when up after 2).

Mr. 400

Sidney Crosby is one goal short of 400 on his career.