Ducks out to spoil Predators' playoff push
In a disappointing season that has them treading water at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, the Anaheim Ducks have learned to play the role of spoiler.
After ending a three-game road trip with a win in Calgary, the Ducks will open an eight-game homestand against the Nashville Predators on Sunday.
The stretch will be Anaheim's second-longest this season. It hosted 10 consecutive matches from Dec. 21 to Jan. 13 -- posting a 3-6-1 mark.
In a strong road performance against Calgary on Friday, Anaheim goaltender John Gibson and the Ducks hampered the Pacific Division foe's postseason hopes in a 3-1 win.
Gibson was fierce against the Flames, making 36 saves and moving his record to 14-24-7 in 45 games.
"To me, he's probably a top-five, top-three goalie in the league," said teammate Max Comtois, who had a goal and an assist. "He's always coming up with those big saves and keeping us in it. Even when we play really good teams and teams like today fighting for their lives in a playoff spot, they throw everything at him, and he just comes up with the saves."
In the victory, the 29-year-old Pittsburgh native a set a franchise record for saves. His 36 stops increased his total to 11,837 with the club as he passed Guy Hebert for the record.
"It's cool to be in the same category as those guys, some of the greats that have been here. It's an honor," said Gibson, who leads the NHL with 1,518 saves.
On the road last month, Anaheim also put a dent in the Washington Capitals' playoff hopes, beating the Eastern Conference club 4-2 on Feb. 23.
Across their past eight outings, the Ducks are 5-1-2 with a three-game winning streak.
Nashville presents the same type of opponent as Calgary: On the outside looking in at the playoffs but needing points in the biggest way to earn the second wild-card.
And like the Flames, Nashville blew a great opportunity Thursday against a team it expected to beat, losing 4-1 at the Arizona Coyotes.
On Saturday night in Los Angeles in the fifth of their six-game road trip, the Predators snapped the Kings' five-game winning streak, beating them 2-1 in a shootout.
Matt Duchene netted the shootout's only goal, and goalie Kevin Lankinen (26 saves) won for the fifth time in his past six starts. Tommy Novak tallied on the power play in regulation.
The second line, featuring left winger Kiefer Sherwood, center Novak and right winger Luke Evangelista, has special qualities for the Predators, according to assistant coach Dan Lambert.
"They're dangerous players," Lambert said. "Evangelista sees the ice extremely well, and it seems like the puck follows him around. Novak obviously has ice in his veins and is a real good, effective player. And Woody's got great speed. They really complement each other well."
Egor Afanasyev, 22, made his NHL debut as the fourth-line left winger and had two shots in 8:24.
In the last minute of regulation, defenseman Ryan McDonagh was struck in the face by a deflected shot and left the game.
With three games in hand, Nashville entered Sunday six points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff berth and is currently 3-1-1 on the road swing.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 12, 2023