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After reaching the Western Conference finals last season, the Anaheim Ducks are aware they need every point possible down the stretch — and will gladly accept a little help — just to return to the postseason.
Looking to solidify their hold on a playoff spot, the Ducks continue a four-game road trip on Sunday night against new NHL scoring leader Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers.
Last spring, Anaheim finished atop the Pacific Division, swept the Calgary Flames then defeated Edmonton in seven games to make the conference finals, but lost in six games to the Nashville Predators.
Anaheim (38-24-13) was idle on Saturday but moved back into a playoff spot thanks to Edmonton’s 3-2 win over the Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks are third in the Pacific Division, tied with the Kings with 89 points and with a game in hand. Anaheim is also sixth in the conference.
On Friday, the Ducks’ four-game winning streak was snapped, but they picked up a point in a 3-2 loss in overtime to the Winnipeg Jets. Winger Nick Ritchie, whose second-period goal made it 2-2, knows the team got a little lucky.
“We were holding on the whole night,” he told the Ducks’ official website. “We’ll take the one point. It’s going to be big for us moving forward.”
If the Ducks ultimately lock down a spot, they should thank John Gibson, who made 39 saves Friday and has been hard to beat since the All-Star break. In 17 starts, he’s gone 12-3-2 with a 1.80 goals-against average, a .942 save percentage and three shutouts.
“We look at it and maybe he spoils us because the performance that he’s been able to deliver through the course of the season,” coach Randy Carlyle told the Orange County Register after Friday’s loss.
Gibson is 1-0-1 with 1.45 GAA versus the Oilers this season, but he’s lost three straight in Edmonton — all after regulation.
It’s not immediately known if the Ducks will have Ryan Getzlaf back in the lineup. The Register reported that Anaheim’s captain was a late scratch Friday with a stomach virus.
Getzlaf leads the Ducks with 45 assists and is second on the club with 56 points in 49 games. He tied a season high with four points (one goal, three assists) in a 6-5 shootout loss to the Oilers on Feb. 25 in Southern California.
Rickard Rakell completed his first career hat trick in that contest by scoring twice in the final 21 seconds of regulation. The winger leads the club with 31 goals — three short of a new career best — but he has only one goal in 10 career games in Edmonton. Rakell also needs one assist for 100 in his career.
With Saturday’s victory coming in McDavid’s second straight two-goal game, Edmonton (34-36-5) has won three straight and four of its last five.