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.