Win or lose the rest of the way, the Anaheim Ducks know they will be part of the postseason. Lately, though, they haven’t looked like they belong there.
Anaheim will try to avoid a season-high fifth straight defeat Sunday night when they play the first of back-to-back road games against the Edmonton Oilers, who have lost nine straight at home in this series.
After finishing 15 points out of a playoff spot a year ago, the Ducks (27-11-6) have locked up a postseason berth and are second in the Western Conference behind Chicago, which has clinched the No. 1 seed. They could wrap up the Pacific Division title as early as Sunday, if they win this game while San Jose and Los Angeles both lose in regulation.
Anaheim, though, is winless since capping a 5-1-1 run with a 2-1 home win over Edmonton (17-19-7) on April 8. The Ducks, whose lone Pacific title came during their Stanley Cup-winning season in 2006-07, are five points ahead of the Kings and Sharks with four games left for all three.
Coach Bruce Boudreau’s team, held to five goals during its four-game skid, opened a four-game road trip with Friday’s 3-1 loss to Calgary
“We’re certainly not going to (win the division) playing the way we did the first two periods,” Boudreau said after the Ducks went scoreless for the first 56 minutes. “I couldn’t have cared less if we were playing a midget team or the Russian national team. We needed the win and that should have been motivation enough.”
Perhaps a visit to Rexall Place would put the Ducks in a better frame of mind. They’re undefeated in nine straight there, limiting the Oilers to 15 goals, since a 5-1 loss Nov. 30, 2007.
If Edmonton can’t earn at least one point in this matchup and Columbus picks up one visiting the Sharks on Sunday night, the Oilers will be eliminated from playoff contention for a seventh straight season. That would be a bitter pill to swallow after a season-best five-game winning streak March 26-April 3 put them right in the playoff mix.
Playoffs or not, the Oilers still want to end on a positive note after finishing with the league’s worst or second-worst record in each of the last three seasons.
“We don’t want the Edmonton Oilers picking in the top five (of the draft),” coach Ralph Krueger said after the Oilers ended a season-worst six-game slide with Friday’s 4-1 win at Colorado. “Let’s move up in the standings and get out of that bottom group. We still have goals. We want to get points.”
That could be difficult, though, with Anaheim in town on Sunday and Monday before Chicago arrives for a game Wednesday. Edmonton has been outscored 12-5 in its last three on home ice.
“You’ve got to show your fans you care and show each other you care,” forward Jordan Eberle said Thursday after ending a six-game scoring drought with a goal and two assists. “You want to finish well and feel good about yourself as a team.”
The Ducks feel the same, but at least they control their playoff fate.
“There has to be a sense of urgency and a sense of we have to work hard to get it done,” said defenseman Sheldon Souray a former Oiler.
Anaheim hasn’t dropped five in a row since an 0-6-1 slide Nov. 13-27, 2011. It is 12-2-0 in its last 14 versus Edmonton.