The Anaheim Ducks, who face the Penguins Saturday in Pittsburgh, are surging.
The Ducks have won two straight and are on a 4-0-2 run, despite playing without injured captain Ryan Getzlaf.
While Pittsburgh played in Washington Friday, the Ducks got to relax after they won 2-1 in a shootout Thursday against the Blue Jackets in Columbus.
“We’re playing for each other,” Anaheim goaltender John Gibson said. “We’re having fun. I think that’s what it’s all about. You want to have fun. You want to win. You want to have success. We seem to be finding ways to do that.”
Gibson, who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, has been a key to the Ducks’ success. He has earned 11 wins thus far, and his 2.60 goals-against average and .917 save percentage are near his career bests.
According to coach Dallas Eakins, Gibson was pivotal in Anaheim’s win Thursday, with 33 saves through regulation and overtime.
“It’s been rare that where we’ve had more than two guys having an off night,” Eakins said. “(Thursday), we had seven or eight. When that’s happening, that puts a lot of pressure on our goaltender. But, thankfully, we have a world-class one in Gibby. That was just an unbelievable performance.”
Saturday marks the first meeting of the season between the Ducks and Penguins, who did not face each other last season with a modified NHL schedule because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Pittsburgh won its third straight Friday in Washington, 4-2, playing its first game since it was announced that the team’s leading scorer, top-line winger Jake Guentzel, would be out on a week-to-week basis because of what is believed to be a hand injury.
In what could be a relief and a confidence booster, Kasperi Kapanen scored Friday after being elevated to the top line in Guentzel’s absence, joining Sidney Crosby and Evan Rodrigues.
Kapanen has struggled much of the season, but he scored what turned out to be the deciding goal against the Capitals. He was set up by his new linemates.
Playing with Crosby, Kapanen said, “is pretty awesome, to be honest. I thought our whole line clicked.”
The game Saturday is the first for Pittsburgh in a stretch of five of six at home.
Backup goaltender Casey DeSmith seems likely to start Saturday after Tristan Jarry played Friday at Washington.
It would be just DeSmith’s sixth start and appearance, in part because he has struggled and also because Jarry has played at a high level.
DeSmith’s most recent start, Monday at Seattle, was one that proved memorable — not because it came in Pittsburgh’s first game against the expansion Kraken but because it was DeSmith’s first win of the season. He stopped 28 of 29 shots for by far his best game, a 6-1 Penguins victory.
“Mentally, that was big, for me to go out there and get a solid win,” said DeSmith, who benefitted from an early 3-0 lead. “Kudos to everyone for making it easy on me and getting my confidence going in the right direction.”
Pittsburgh defenseman Kris Letang is one point shy of 600 for his career.
–Field Level Media