Jets look to tame giant-killing Ducks in SoCal
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With the Winnipeg Jets having already shifted into late-season mode, it would seem as if the recently resurgent Anaheim Ducks will be unable to spring another surprise on a playoff-bound squad when the teams meet Wednesday in Southern California.
The Ducks are not officially eliminated from playoff contention, but that day is coming soon -- not that it has lessened their edge. It has done quite the opposite, in fact, with Anaheim going 6-3 over its last nine games.
Teams currently in the playoff picture, such as the Nashville Predators and Arizona Coyotes, have felt the recent bite of the prideful Ducks. And teams fighting to earn a wild-card berth -- the Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche (twice) -- have been turned away after entering in what seemed to be a chance to make some ground.
What none of those teams upended by the Ducks carried, though, was the first-place credentials of the Jets (43-25-4, 90 points) -- who have a three-point lead on the Predators in the Central Division standings.
A showdown between the Jets and Predators is set for Saturday at Winnipeg, leaving Wednesday's game at Anaheim and Thursday's matchup with the Golden Knights at Vegas as Winnipeg's chances to ramp up the intensity as the Jets currently ride a three-game winning streak, each win by one goal.
"I feel like this time of the year games start tightening up and scores are lower," Jets defenseman Tyler Myers recently told reporters. "You can tell it's starting to get into that playoff hockey even against teams that aren't necessarily in it anymore. It's a good style of play that we want to get used to going into April and going into the postseason."
Myers turned up the dial Monday at Los Angeles, going the length of the ice late in the second period to score what would end up being the game-winning goal in a 3-2 decision over the Kings.
Like the Ducks, the Jets have gone 6-3 over their last nine games. And on Wednesday they will be just two games removed from an impressive 2-1 victory over the Calgary Flames, the leaders in the entire Western Conference.
The Ducks certainly do not seem as if they will be afraid of the challenge. The season went sideways long ago with a 12-game losing streak that started in December, along with shorter losing runs of seven and five games since the start of the new year.
The last time the Jets and Ducks met was in early February, when the Ducks were in the midst of the seven-game skid. Winnipeg made Anaheim look every bit the struggling team, earning a 9-3 victory. A week later, Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle was fired.
Under interim coach Bob Murray, the Ducks are in the midst of an offensive revival, scoring 3.6 goals per game over their last eight contests. It still is not as much as the NHL-best Tampa Bay Lightning have scored per game this season, but far better than the anemic results previously posted by the Ducks, who only recently have emerged from their spot as the worst-scoring team in the league.
"I think we've been playing pretty good throughout the last few weeks and even in the games where we have had some ups and downs" Ducks forward Jakob Silfverberg told reporters. "... We have been playing pretty good lately and we're feeling pretty good about ourselves."
For the Ducks, center Ryan Kesler (hip), defenseman Brendan Guhle (undisclosed) and goaltender Chad Johnson (head) are day-to-day. For the Jets, defensemen Dustin Byfuglien (ankle) and Joe Morrow (lower body) are day-to-day.
--Field Level Media
Updated March 19, 2019