Game Day Preview: Ducks, Penguins aim to snap a funk

The NHL kicks off a new week with three games on the schedule, from Boston-Carolina, to Winnipeg-Calgary and a tilt between two recently struggling powerhouses, Anaheim and Pittsburgh.

By Curtis Ng, Nic Carafa and Garrett Perry

The NHL kicks off a new week with three games on the schedule, from Boston-Carolina, to Winnipeg-Calgary and a tilt between two recently struggling powerhouses, Anaheim and Pittsburgh.

DUCKS (15-5-2) at PENGUINS (12-8-0)
Both of these elite teams come into tonight’s game in a bit of a slump – the Anaheim Ducks losing their past three and the Pittsburgh Penguins, four of their past five. In the Pens’ case, the Washington Capitals have now taken over the Metropolitan Division lead with a one-point edge over Crosby and the boys. Meanwhile in the Pacific, the first-place Ducks are only three points up on the fourth-place Los Angeles Kings. The Ducks power play is finally over 10 percent (11.7), so if that aspect of their game continues to improve, they’ll only have to start working on their 75.4 percent penalty kill rate. Improve that and these guys from Southern California would be an absolute juggernaut.

When the Ducks finish up their four-game road trip in Pittsburgh tonight, former Penguin Ben Lovejoy – no relation to Reverend Lovejoy – will make his return to Consol Energy Center for first time as a Duck. He sees his time with the Pens as a period in his career that helped him mature into the player he’s become today. (Pittsburgh Tribune)

The Ducks’ Saku Koivu will be one of few players coming back into the lineup tonight. He has missed the past 10 games with a concussion. (

Player to Watch: Marc-Andre Fleury. With all the offensive weapons sprinkled across the Penguins roster, you would think one of the scorers would be a player to watch. But with the Penguins having trouble finding the back of the net as of late, Fleury has posted an impressive 2.04 GAA and 9.13 SP over his past four games.

BRUINS (12-6-1) at HURRICANES (8-8-4)
These teams meet tonight for the first time this season, again this Saturday in Boston and for the final time in mid-March. Boston had a four-game winning streak snapped last Friday with a 4-2 loss in Ottawa. With a win tonight, the Bruins can pull to within one point of the East-leading Tampa Bay Lightning. The Hurricanes are 10th in the Eastern Conference, but require only one point to move into third in the Metropolitan Division. How are they liking the new playoff format right now? Of course, this is not a favorable matchup for the Canes. They are scoring just 1.90 goals per game, while the Bruins are allowing 1.84.

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Justin Peters appears to be starting tonight. Alexander Semin suffered an upper body injury in Saturday’s game against St. Louis and his status is currently unknown. (Canes Country)

Another strength of the Bruins is their penalty kill. They’re 28 for their past 28 heading into tonight. There weren’t any lineup changes in practice yesterday and Tuukka Rask could be getting the start. However, the B’s play again tomorrow against the Rangers. (Boston Globe)

Player to Watch: Patrice Bergeron. He only has six goals and 11 points in 19 games this season, but he’s heating up, with three goals and five points in his past four games.

FLAMES (6-11-3) at JETS (10-10-2)
The Jets and Flames will meet for the first time this season as the two Canadian sides face-off at the always-boisterous MTS Centre in Winnipeg. The Flames head into tonight’s matchup flickering, having gone winless in their past six games (0-5-1), while the Jets look to bounce back from a tough 2-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Sunday night. This is the beginning of a three-game homestand for the Jets, who own a .500 record 22 games into the season. Reto Berra of the Flames looks to tighten his grip on the starting role, as he squares off against Al Montoya, who will get the nod in the second of back-to-back games for the Jets. Winnipeg will look to get their struggling power play (29th ranked) going, as the Flames are giving up an average of 3.70 goals per game.

The Flames look to rebound from a tough third period collapse against the Oilers in the Battle of Alberta on Saturday night. (Calgary Herald)

The shootout is proving to be the Jets’ best friend. (Winnipeg Sun)

Player to Watch: Dustin Byfuglien. The Jets hulking defensemen has four goals in the past three games.