Blue Jackets-Ducks Preview
With a litany of capable goal scorers and a not-so-young rookie dominating in net, the Anaheim Ducks have staked an early claim as one of the league's top teams.
On the other end of the spectrum are the Columbus Blue Jackets, who own the NHL's worst record and must deal with injuries as they try to turn things around.
Anaheim returns home seeking a season-best fifth straight win Monday when it faces Columbus, which is on the third stop of a season-high six-game road trip.
The 23 points by the Ducks (11-2-1) are the second-most in the league behind Chicago following a 5-1-0 road swing, the best win percentage for a trip of five or more games in franchise history.
Anaheim's current four-game winning streak - its second this month - has included three shootouts. Corey Perry's shootout goal made the difference in a 3-2 win at Nashville on Saturday.
Coach Bruce Boudreau's club continues to get contributions from a variety of players, with Patrick Maroon tallying his first career goal in the second period to tie the game.
Maroon became the 13th Anaheim player to score this season. Bobby Ryan and Daniel Winnik are tied for the team lead with five goals, while seven others have four. Anaheim ranks near the top of the league with 3.3 goals per game.
"The one thing that our group has been able to do so far is keep their cool and play the way they are supposed to and just keep going and eventually something goes in," Boudreau said.
In goal, 30-year-old rookie Viktor Fasth continues to make his mark in surprising fashion. Friday's win improved his record to 8-0-0, joining Ray Emery and Bob Froese as the only goalies in NHL history to win their first eight starts. No netminder has won his first nine starts.
Fasth has a .933 save percentage and a 1.78 goals-against average, numbers that both rank among the league's top 10.
"(Fasth is) playing exceptionally well, and guys are playing well in front of him," Perry told the league's official website.
Columbus (4-9-2), meanwhile, continues to struggle, and its 10 points are the fewest in the NHL. The near future isn't promising with the Blue Jackets only 1-5-0 on the road and three more road games awaiting after Sunday. They haven't won away from home since a 3-2 shootout victory at Nashville in the season opener.
Brandon Dubinsky is the latest player to get hurt, suffering a lower-body injury after a collision in Friday's 5-3 loss at Phoenix. He's listed as day to day, joining Artem Anisimov (foot) and James Wisniewski (personal reasons). The Blue Jackets have only nine players who have appeared in every game, compared to 14 for Anaheim.
Discipline continues to be an issue for Columbus, one of the league's most penalized teams with 17:28 penalty minutes per game. The Blue Jackets have been shorthanded an average of 4.6 times over the past five games, and their last three opponents have each scored a power-play goal.
These teams haven't met since splitting four matchups last season, with Perry recording hat tricks in both Anaheim wins. Teemu Selanne had four goals and two assists in that season series, and he has 14 of each in his last 19 games against Columbus.