After playing five games in seven days on the road, the Anaheim Ducks return home in a place few would have predicted before the season — in first place in the NHL’s Pacific Division.
The Ducks, who play host to the expansion Seattle Kraken on Wednesday night, went 3-1-1 on their trip to Washington, Buffalo, Columbus, Pittsburgh and St. Louis. They beat the Blues 3-2 Sunday on Troy Terry’s penalty shot in overtime.
“It’s still early (in the season), and it’s not anything to be satisfied over,” said Terry, who is tied for fifth in the league with 17 goals. “After the last three years (of missing the playoffs), it just feels different this year in our locker room. We don’t look at the standings. We’re just playing for each other. We’re playing free. It’s been more fun.”
Added defenseman Cam Fowler, who was a member of Ducks teams that reached the Western Conference final in 2014-15 and 2016-17: “We certainly believe that we have a team that can play with anybody. The last couple of years have been difficult. We know that we haven’t played up to our standards. But we’ve got a great team. Great coaching staff. And people might be surprised around the league, but for us, it’s something that we believed could happen. Now it’s up to us to continue that consistent play.”
The Ducks have gotten a boost from center Trevor Zegras, who is second among NHL rookies with 22 points.
John Gibson left a 1-0 loss at Pittsburgh on Saturday after two periods with a lower-body injury, and Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said the goaltender is day-to-day.
The Ducks and Kraken have met once previously, with Anaheim coming away with a 7-4 victory on Nov. 11 in Seattle as Terry had two goals and an assist.
The Kraken snapped a three-game winless streak (0-2-1) with a 3-1 victory at San Jose on Tuesday. Chris Driedger made 33 saves in his first appearance since Nov. 29 because of a lower-body injury, and Ryan Donato, Branden Tanev and Calle Jarnkrok scored the goals.
Driedger, who has won his past three starts, had his bid for the first shutout in franchise history thwarted when San Jose scored with 2:07 left and its goalie pulled for an extra attacker.
The last-place Kraken are looking to gain some ground with back-to-back games against divisional foes.
“The bottom line is: We’ve got to be better in these divisional games if we want to have an opportunity to climb back into things,” Kraken coach Dave Hakstol said before Tuesday’s game. “These are very, very important games. Guys know that. And at the end of the day, we can talk all we want. But we have to go out and we have to do well in these games. And we have to earn points in these games.”
The Kraken made the trip without top-line center Yanni Gourde, who is in the league’s COVID-19 protocol along with fellow forwards Riley Sheahan and Colin Blackwell and assistant coach Jay Leach.
–Field Level Media