Hoping momentum stuck around, Ducks visit Stars
The Anaheim Ducks sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division standings coming out of the All-Star break, but they’re the only team in the division riding a winning streak.
The Ducks have won a season-high three in a row heading into their Monday night matchup with the host Dallas Stars.
Anaheim has had plenty of time to savor its recent run of success. The Ducks haven’t played since a 2-1 overtime win against the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Jan. 28.
“We’re rolling,” Ducks center Trevor Zegras said after scoring the overtime winner against the Coyotes. “Everybody loves to win, no matter where you are in the standings or how the season’s going. Winning is the best feeling and that’s why we all play.”
The Stars are in an entirely different situation, sitting atop the Central Division after an especially successful first half of the season.
Dallas shares the division with the Colorado Avalanche, the defending Stanley Cup champions who exit the All-Star break fourth in the Central.
Dallas left wing Jason Robertson, who is fifth in the NHL in goals (33) and tied for sixth in points (66), told reporters following his first All-Star Game appearance on Saturday that he considers the Central to be the toughest division in the NHL.
“Every game’s physical,” Robertson said. “Every point is going to be a dog fight, so it’s going to be a fun 30 games down the stretch.”
Dallas will continue to lean on Robertson, veteran Joe Pavelski and goalie Jake Oettinger, who is tied for second in the NHL in both goals-against average (2.26) and save percentage (.923).
A year after becoming the No. 1 goalie in Dallas, Oettinger might be its most important player, Robertson said.
“He’s the backbone of our team, always the one that has our back,” Robertson said. “He’s just a true professional. He’s embraced that confidence and that swagger. Everything you need in a No. 1 that you see in the NHL. That’s important for us as we head along this stretch.”
Anaheim goalie John Gibson is considerably further down the statistical rankings this season, but he shut out the Stars the last time they met, a 2-0 win on Jan. 4 in Anaheim.
Gibson has also won two of the three games in the current winning streak, stopping 74 of 78 shots (.949) in those outings.
“He’s such a competitive guy,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “If you could somehow take that DNA out of him, you could make millions and millions of dollars off it.”
Eakins has been incredibly impressed with how Gibson has remained motivated this season, even as losses mounted.
“When you’re that highly competitive, losses sting,” Eakins said. “They stick with you. They can wear on you. I think he’s done a fabulous job of shaking those off and sticking with our program. Getting a few wins here in a row is excellent for him.”
As a team, Eakins said the Ducks are starting to play more within their limits.
“We’re learning that you don’t have to hit a home run every shift and (we’re) managing the game better,” he said. “There’s still hiccups along the way, but I think we’re getting comfortable with that. That takes time to develop.”
–Field Level Media