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The Anaheim Ducks are experiencing their worst losing streak of the season due to a rash of injuries and a dismal road trip. They hope a return home will be enough to get them back on track and mantain the league points lead.
Anaheim tries to end the slide when it hosts the Columbus Blue Jackets on Friday in the first meeting between the teams this season.
The Ducks (28-8-6) enter this matchup one point ahead of Buffalo for the NHL's best record. The Sabres host Pittsburgh on Friday.
Anaheim has dropped a season-high three straight games, including a 2-1 defeat to the Detroit Red Wings on Tuesday. The Ducks were outshot 28-13 over the final two periods to close out their road trip 1-4.
"I didn't think we really played a complete 60 minutes," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. "We had a lapse in the second period that cost us."
Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf tied the game in the second on a power-play goal, but Detroit's Henrik Zetterberg got the go-ahead score late in the period. The Ducks didn't muster much offense without second-leading scorer Chris Pronger, who missed his first game with a broken left foot.
The Anaheim defenseman is on injured reserve after getting hurt in the team's previous game, a 4-3 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. In an effort to help fill that void, the Ducks acquired defenseman Ric Jackman from the Florida Panthers on Wednesday in exchange for a conditional pick in the 2007 NHL entry draft.
Jackman scored one goal in seven games for the Panthers this season, but had 30 points in 64 games between Pittsburgh and Florida in 2005-06.
Anaheim also has been without forward Todd Marchant (abdominal strain), defenseman Francois Beauchemin (lacerated spleen) and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere (strained groin), who is day-to-day. Michael Wall and Ilya Bryzgalov have started the three games in Giguere's place but neither has been able to record a win.
The Ducks are hoping that changes when they get back to the Honda Center, where they have won three straight contests, outscoring teams 12-2 and thwarting all 14 opponents' power plays in that span. Anaheim is 15-2-4 at home and looking to tie its season-high four-game winning streak there.
The Ducks are 5-0-1 with a tie in their last seven home meetings with the Blue Jackets, outscoring them 21-10.
Columbus (15-21-4) has dropped five straight road games, getting shut out three times and losing the other two in a shootout and overtime.
The Blue Jackets kicked off a three-game road trip with a 3-0 loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday.
Columbus has given its opponents 21 power-play opportunities over the last two road games, killing off 17 of those chances. The Blue Jackets were whistled for three consecutive penalties in the third period against the Kings.
"We used our best players far too much killing penalties," Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's been our nemesis the last three road games - far too many penalties. Some of them have been lazy and not very disciplined."
That lack of discipline put increased pressure on goaltender Fredrik Norrena, who made 29 saves in Wednesday's defeat. Norrena, who has never faced the Ducks, will likely be the Blue Jackets' top netminder for awhile as Pascal Leclaire is sidelined until mid-February following arthroscopic knee surgery.
These teams split four meetings last season, all decided by one goal.