The Anaheim Ducks continue to build momentum heading into their first playoff appearance in two seasons.
Before the Ducks shift their focus on the postseason, they’ll look for a fourth consecutive victory Saturday night against the visiting Phoenix Coyotes.
As the No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, Anaheim (30-11-6) will have home-ice advantage at least through the first two rounds, but its collective confidence has grown stronger after it won the final three of a four-game trip. The Ducks outscored Edmonton and Vancouver 9-2 in those three contests.
“Any time a team knows they’re going to be in the playoffs, they try to play the same way and really stick to a system because that’s really what’s going to pay off down the road,” veteran defenseman Bryan Allan told the Ducks’ official website.
The Ducks missed the playoffs in three of the past four seasons, but regrouped to record the third-most points in the NHL and establish themselves as a serious Stanley Cup contender in 2013.
“(The players) feel different. The arena feels different. Everything is different,” Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said of the postseason. “The approach to the game is different, the seriousness of it.
“It’s more physical. There are no passengers ever in the playoffs. It’s what makes hockey a beautiful thing in the spring.”
Though the Ducks could continue to rest some veterans in Saturday’s regular-season finale, they expect to play hard while trying to continue their recent run of success. With aging veterans Teemu Selanne Saku Koivu and captain Ryan Getzlaf given the night off, Brad Staubitz scored his first goal of the season and Jonas Hiller made 28 saves in Thursday’s 3-1 win at Vancouver.
Anaheim outshot the Canucks 25-9 in the first two periods before the hosts peppered Hiller with 20 shots in the final 20 minutes.
The Ducks hope to carry over their recent road success to the Honda Center, where they are 3-5-1 following a 13-game winning streak. Anaheim, however, has outscored Phoenix (20-18-9) 12-3 during a three-game home winning streak.
Getzlaf has two goals and three assists against the Coyotes this season.
Teammate Bobby Ryan who missed the last two games with the flu, has one point in his last eight contests but a goal with two assists versus Phoenix in 2013.
After reaching the conference finals in 2012, the Coyotes will miss the playoffs this season after struggling down the stretch.
Phoenix blew a 2-0 lead then rallied to force overtime Friday before losing for the fifth time in seven games, 5-4 in shootout to Colorado. That could have yet again been their last home contest in the Phoenix area. The Coyotes have been run by the NHL the past three seasons and remain in limbo again at this point.
“Certainly not the way we intended (to end it),” said forward Antoine Vermette who scored twice. “We would rather get the win.”
Defenseman Keith Yandle added two assists for Phoenix, which had not scored more than three goals and been shut out three times in the previous eight contests.
Vermette has three goals and two assists in his last six games versus Anaheim.