The Anaheim Ducks are about to embark on a 5 game road trip that could go a long way to defining if they are actually contenders for the west or just nearly pretenders.
The road trip begins with the Columbus Blue Jackets on Saturday, Columbus is a team historically that the Anaheim Ducks have always had a trouble beating and with Cam Atkinson having a stellar season so far ( 19G 13A) its important to keep him in check. I”d expect John Gibson to face a ton of rubber here. Coach Randy Carlyle has already said that he is looking to make a statement on this trip and a win in Columbus would be a nice start. My prediction: The Anaheim Ducks squeak out a win in Columbus.
Game Two: Pittsburgh
After Columbus, the Ducks go on to face the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday. Unfortunately It just doesn’t get any easier for the lads here, but surprisingly the Anaheim Ducks swept the series last year 2-0, outscoring them by a margin of 9-3 in total. Again I would expect PA native John Gibson to get the nod in net.
This will also be a return for Daniel Sprong as it is his first game back since being traded by the team that drafted him. I’m sure he will be out in full force to show the home crowd what he was capable of with the Anaheim Ducks. any team that has Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on it, you can’t count out. My prediction unfortunately is that the Penguins offense will be to much for Anaheim to handle and Gibson won’t be able to bail them out, Loss.
Game Three: New York Rangers
Chad Johnson was picked up on waivers on Tuesday the 11th should get the start Tuesday night vs the New York Rangers. Of the 5 teams that the Anaheim Ducks will face this has to be the easiest and with Kevin Shattenkirk out and the Rangers supposedly in the middle of a rebuild the task maybe just got a little bit easier. My prediction here is that the Anaheim Ducks will come out with the easy victory.
After these 3 games I’d like to be optimistic and say that Anaheim will be 2-1 , I think that the loss might come on Monday against Sid, just a gut feeling here but they just seem due for a win against us. If they can get some puck love I don’t see anything to fear in Columbus and New York.
Game Four: Boston Bruins
Following New York the Anaheim Ducks don’t play again until Thursday night at the TD Garden against the Big Bad Bruins. The big question is who will they face against between the pipes Tukka Rask or Jaroslav Halak? Either would be a daunting task as both have excellent saver percentages with Rask holding a .915 and Halak with an impressive .930.
The B’s are playing some great hockey right now but again this is a team that Anaheim took the season series from last term (2-0 7-3 total score). I’m going to go out on a limb here and say we get the win here!
Game Five: Buffalo Sabres
Onto Buffalo the last game of the road trip and by this point you’d have to figure the lads will be road weary. The prospect of going up against the surprise team of the season should seem like a daunting task. If Anaheim is able to get one of the walking wounded back by now (Rickard Rakell most likely), this might be a decent match up as they both match up pretty well .
Personally I think guys will be looking forward to the Christmas break and getting home to warm Southern California and their families . I predict that while this game will be extremely close, the Sabres will continue their hot streak and hand Anaheim a Loss.
With a possible 10 points on the line, I think the goal might be to come home with 6 points here and a relative healthy roster. If for any reason the Anaheim Ducks were to lose one of the remaining marque players like Hampus Lindholm or Ryan Getzlaf you could see this trip turn into a disaster.
Its pretty evident that the roster is down to its bare bones filled with untested rookies. Rumor has it that General Manager Bob Murray has been looking to add depth on the blue line as Randy Carlyle has had to play the likes of Andy Wellinski and Josh Mahura. The results on this road trip might speed up the need to make a move!
stats courtesy of NHL.com