Ducks brace for red-hot Devils
ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The Anaheim Ducks seek to maintain their share of first place in the Pacific Division when they meet another surging team, the New Jersey Devils, on Thursday night at the Honda Center.
The Ducks joined the Edmonton Oilers at the top of the division by beating them 4-1 on Tuesday night, with goaltender John Gibson making a season-high 33 saves. While the Devils and Ducks face each other, the Oilers play the slumping Los Angeles Kings, who've lost four in a row.
Anaheim earned its fourth victory in six games Tuesday night after starting the season by securing only one point while losing its first four games. In their past 13 games, the Ducks have compiled a 8-3-2 record. During that spurt, right winger Corey Perry amassed 10 points in eight games while center Ryan Kesler scored five goals in his past five contests and six goals this month.
"We're just finding different ways to win," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "Some nights, it's our defense not giving up too many opportunities to the other team. Other nights, it's been our special teams and power play. Tonight, it was goaltending and scoring at the right times.
"We'd like to play a little more consistent but we're slowly finding our way as a team."
Defenseman Josh Manson said he believes the Ducks need to make progress during this five-game homestand, the first of two this season.
"You want to be a force in your own building," Manson told the Orange County Register. "You want teams to come in and realize what they're coming into and know that it's going to be a tough night and know that it's going to be no fun. I think that's something we're going to work towards here on this homestand."
The Devils come to Anaheim with a five-game winning streak, their longest since February 2013. Traditionally strong defensively, the Devils rank second in fewest goals allowed with 31, and fewest goals conceded per game with 2.07.
"When you win games, the players have to have a certain work ethic," New Jersey coach John Hynes told NHL.com. "They have to make smart plays. They have to make the right decisions and they have to play consistently, and I think we've been fortunate enough to be able to do that."
That approach enabled the Devils to earn a 2-1 overtime victory Tuesday night in Dallas against the Stars.
"We're a blue collar team," right winger Kyle Palmieri told the Bergen Record afterward. "We're a team that plays a pretty good structured defensive game, but I think tonight we were on our toes all night and attacking and getting chances."
However, the Devils will have to play without left winger Taylor Hall, who shares the team lead with five goals and 12 points. Hall, who turned 25 on Monday, underwent knee surgery Wednesday for a torn left meniscus and is expected to be out 3-to-4 weeks. Hall was Edmonton's selection as the first overall choice in the 2010 draft but the Oilers traded him to New Jersey in June for defenseman Adam Larsson.
Hall's absence hurts a power play that has failed to convert its last 21 opportunities over the past six games.