There isn’t much sand left in the hourglass of the Ducks’ homestand, which, when all is said and done, will have spanned eight games and 20 calendar days.
Thus far, they’ve collected only three of a possible 12 points as part of a broader stretch of four wins in 22 outings.
Next up, they’ll face the Winnipeg Jets on Friday, the same club that defeated them 4-2 at home back on Dec. 10. In that match, the Ducks led 2-0 early in the third period before surrendering four unanswered goals. In their most recent outing, they held a 1-0 lead well into the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs, only to lose in overtime despite a franchise-record 55 saves from Lukáš Dostál.
It was a game in which Coach Greg Cronin said his club “really didn’t have much” despite having “played hard.” They clung to a one-goal lead off Frank Vatrano’s short-handed tally, but they were undone by a late power-play goal from John Tavares before Auston Matthews proved that the 13th time was a charm, connecting on his 13th shot of the night, in overtime.
The Ducks were able to finagle a point out of the ordeal, thanks in large part to Dostál’s jaw-dropping performance but also due to a controlled, structured approach against a tenacious Toronto squad.
“We have to play a simple game anyway, we’ve got a bunch of guys out and we’re not an offensive juggernaut, right? So we have to try to put pucks deep, hunt them down and get them back,” Cronin said.
Already without the scoring touch of winger Troy Terry, who was placed on injured reserve Wednesday morning, and also missing prodigious pivot Leo Carlsson, the Ducks suddenly found themselves without three more veterans Wednesday night. Ryan Strome (upper-body) and Ross Johnston (illness) practiced Thursday, Radko Gudas (illness), whom Cronin said the team missed as a “thumper,” did not.
Special teams play continued to vex the Ducks in not-so-novel ways.
Since Dec. 19, the Ducks have cashed in on just 5.9% of their power-play opportunities, the worst mark in hockey. They’ve killed a respectable 80% of their penalties but committed more infractions than any other team and have also owned the worst penalty differential during that period, as has been the case over the course of the season, too.
On Friday, the Jets will be completing a two-games-in-two-nights set after facing the Sharks in San Jose on Thursday. Winnipeg has been without winger Kyle Connor, who had been leading the team in scoring before Strome’s check and the resulting collision of their knees knocked Connor out of action back on Dec. 10.
The Jets were the NHL’s top team in the month of December by points, points percentage, wins and regulation wins, in addition to allowing the fewest goals all month, just 1.85 per game. They began the new year auspiciously with a 4-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since Dec. 1, the top five skaters in the NHL in plus-minus rating are all Jets, with their top defensive pairing and one-time first line pacing the league over that span.
WINNIPEG AT DUCKS
When: Friday, 7 p.m.
Where: Honda Center
How to watch: Bally Sports West