Ducks-Blue Jackets Preview

As playoff talk picked up toward the end of last season, neither

the Anaheim Ducks nor the Columbus Blue Jackets were involved in

any such discussions.

With 2013 brings a much different vibe.

Anaheim looks to build off a big victory in its quest for the

Western Conference’s top seed Sunday night as its road trip

continues versus a Columbus team very much in the postseason

hunt.

The Ducks finished 15 points out of a playoff spot last season

and returned many of the same players in 2013 from that

disappointing campaign.

Anaheim (23-7-4) has been much better in its first full season

under coach Bruce Boudreau, though, sitting three points behind

Chicago for the West lead after sweeping the three-game season

series with the Blackhawks with Friday’s 2-1 victory.

The win snapped a four-game losing streak as the Ducks made

their second stop on a four-game road trip.

“That’s the way we have to play,” said Corey Perry, whose goal

gave him four points in the last four games.

Anaheim scored first after having fallen behind by at least two

goals to begin each of its previous three games.

“We wanted to have a good start. It was the focus of our night,”

said defenseman Sheldon Souray, whose goal with 2:08 left broke the

tie. “It’s been our Achilles’ heel the last few games. First-period

goals have hurt us more than last-period goals.”

Though Boudreau was pleased with the result, he knows his team

must make some improvements to ultimately catch Chicago. The Ducks

have scored two goals or fewer in four of their last five.

“It was a really good test for us,” Boudreau said. “We’re not

out of the woods by any stretch.”

While Columbus is hoping to make its second playoff appearance

in the franchise’s 12-season history, it still has plenty of work

left to make that happen.

The Blue Jackets finished with an NHL-worst 65 points in 2011-12

and traded cornerstone Rick Nash in the offseason. Coach Todd

Richards’ team, though, is within one point of the eighth and final

playoff spot in the West.

Columbus (14-14-7) hurt its cause by dropping the first three of

a four-game road trip but salvaged the finale with a 6-4 win over

Calgary on Friday.

Vinny Prospal, R.J. Umberger and Mark Letestu each had a goal

and an assist as the Blue Jackets tied their season high for

goals.

“What stands out is the two points, no matter how you get them,”

said Prospal, who scored his team-leading 10th goal after going 11

games without one. “Sure, maybe coaches or goalie coaches would

love for the scoring to be a little lower but for the offensive

guys, it’s great.”

Columbus now returns home, where it has gone 8-0-3 over its last

11.

“We’ve been finding a way to win these games lately and those

are the games that help get you into the playoffs,” winger Matt

Calvert said.

Perry and Ryan Getzlaf each scored and Jonas Hiller made 25

saves in a 3-2 win over Columbus on Feb. 18 as Anaheim improved to

5-1-1 in the last seven meetings.

Hiller is 4-0-1 with a 2.05 goals-against average in his last

six starts versus the Blue Jackets, who could counter with Sergei

Bobrovsky.

Bobrovsky, who made 26 saves in the first meeting, has dropped

each of his three career starts versus the Ducks while posting a

3.74 GAA. However, he’s 7-0-2 with a 0.88 GAA at home this

month.