GAME DAY: Anaheim
Blue Jackets look for first win of road trip against one of NHL's top clubs in 2013
BLUE JACKETS (4-9-2) AT DUCKS (11-2-1)
HONDA CENTER | ANAHEIM, CA
10 P.M. TONIGHT
The Anaheim Ducks hold the NHL's record for longest points streak to open a season, 16 games (12-0-4) when they won the Stanley Cup in 2006-07. While they're not quite on pace for that so far in 2013 -- it's actually in danger of being broken by the Chicago Blackhawks -- the Ducks are red-hot and could easily be one of the most complete teams in the NHL.
They're getting contributions from everyone right now and coach Bruce Boudreau has the bench boss' strongest asset: a goaltender that's giving the team a chance to win every night. The only surprise about the goaltending is that it's not veteran Jonas Hiller leading the way for Anaheim, but 30-year-old rookie Viktor Fasth, a Swede who is finally getting his chance at the NHL level and turning a lot of heads in the process. Fasth is 8-0-0 with a 1.78 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, fantastic numbers (not just for a rookie, either) that allow the rest of the Ducks to play with more confidence and execute their up-tempo, aggressive style.
Once Boudreau had time to implement his system, it was only a matter of time before star players like Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Bobby Ryan and others were turned loose on the attack. So far, that's pretty much what they've done; the Ducks come in waves and overwhelm opponents with lengthy shifts and relentless pursuit of loose pucks, and the forwards are backed up by a reliable group of defensemen that's both battle-tested and talented.
Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin, the Ducks' top defense pairing, is a tandem of veteran NHL blueliners that were essentially allowed to walk or traded away from recent stops (Souray in Dallas, Beauchemin was traded from Toronto) and had a lot to prove coming to this season. Entering tonight's game against the Blue Jackets, they're a combined +27 and playing anywhere between 21 and 26 minutes per game.
In a weird scheduling quirk, tonight is the Ducks' only game until another home date against Colorado on the 24th, but they've built significant momentum after a stellar road trip that concluded Saturday night in Nashville. On an 11-day, six-game trip that took the Ducks from Colorado to Nashville and back, they went 5-1-0 and handed the Blackhawks one of their three overtime/shootout defeats on the season.
The expectation is that Fasth will get the nod in goal for Anaheim this evening, and on the other side, Sergei Bobrovsky may get the start for the Blue Jackets.
- Tonight's game is the first of three meetings between the Blue Jackets and Ducks this season. The next meeting comes Mar. 31 at Nationwide Arena before closing out the season series on Apr. 17 at the Honda Center.
- A lower body injury suffered Saturday night in Phoenix is likely to keep Brandon Dubinsky out of tonight's game vs. the Ducks. As a result, Sean Collins was recalled from Springfield (AHL) and could make his NHL debut.
- Artem Anisimov (lower body) is still listed as questionable for tonight's game. He did not play Saturday.
- James Wisniewski, who became a father for the first time over the weekend, is expected to join the Blue Jackets in Anaheim and play tonight.
RIGHT WING | #9
2013 STATS: 5-7-12, 14 GP
It took a while for Ryan to shed the label of "the guy who was drafted behind Sidney Crosby," but once he got some experience under his belt and developed his game, he was on the fast track to stardom. In his first four full (more than 23 games) NHL seasons, Ryan has scored 30-plus goals in each campaign and was a big part of Team USA's silver-medal winning club at the 2010 Olympic Winter Games in Vancouver.
COLUMBUS: Dubinsky (lower body), out; Anisimov (lower body), questionable; Cam Atkinson (lower body), questionable