Hurricanes-Ducks Preview


The Anaheim Ducks need to overcome a large gap to reach the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they've been playing well of late.

So have the Eastern Conference-worst Carolina Hurricanes.

The Ducks look to build some momentum Wednesday night before beginning a lengthy trip when they face a Hurricanes team trying to win three in a row for the first time in nearly four months.

Ten points back of the eighth seed in the West, the Ducks (20-24-8) have little room for error if they're going to advance to the postseason for the sixth time in seven years.

Anaheim, which opens a season-high eight-game trip Friday, is riding a 10-2-2 surge following Monday's 3-2 shootout win over Calgary.

"We really needed those two points," Jonas Hiller said after making 24 saves through overtime.

Hiller has been a major contributor during the spurt, going 8-2-2 with a 1.93 goals-against average in his last 13 starts.

Anaheim gave up 49 goals in coach Bruce Boudreau's first 14 games after he replaced the fired Randy Carlyle, but the club has surrendered 29 during the 10-2-2 stretch.

"(Boudreau) just kind of tweaked our system a little bit, and we just kind of simplified things and we're not trying to do too much out there," defenseman Sheldon Brookbank said following Tuesday's practice.

Offensively, the Ducks are enjoying a well-balanced attack. Teemu Selanne - two points shy of passing Brett Hull for 21st all-time with 1,392 - leads the club with 14 points during the surge, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan have 11 and Saku Koivu, Corey Perry and Lubomir Visnovsky all have 10.

"Their top guys are their best players, and they're playing a lot," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller told his team's official website. "When your best players are your best players, you're going to start winning games."

The Hurricanes (20-25-9) have been doing the same lately, with captain Eric Staal leading the way with eight points during a 6-2-2 spurt.

Jiri Tlusty has a team-best four goals in that span after scoring in Saturday's 2-1 home win over Los Angeles.

"He's really picked his game up over the last 10 games or so," said Muller, whose team last won three straight Oct. 12-18 under former coach Paul Maurice. "Offensively, he's been making a lot of things tick."

Carolina could use continued production from second-year center Jeff Skinner as it opens a three-game trip. The reigning Calder Trophy winner knocked in the go-ahead third-period goal against the Kings for his third score in eight games after missing 16 due to a concussion.

"I'm not going to be digging on (goaltender) Cam Ward like that in practice," Skinner said. "Those sort of things take a while to come back, and it was a good feeling."

Ward, who has surrendered fewer than two goals in five of his last seven starts, will make a 12th consecutive start - and first in Anaheim.

"We're going to ride him hard right now until the schedule tightens up with more games condensed," Muller said.

Ward is 2-0-0 with a 2.14 GAA in three starts against the Ducks. He turned aside 43 shots the last time these teams met, a 4-2 victory Dec. 18, 2010.

Staal recorded a hat trick in that game to offset Getzlaf's two goals.

Selanne scored and set up a goal to help the Ducks avoid a third straight home loss in this series, 3-2 on Nov. 25, 2009.