Anaheim Ducks at Tampa Bay Lightning game preview
TV: FOX Sports Sun
Time: Pregame coverage begins at 6:30 p.m.
TAMPA, Fla. — While the Anaheim Ducks were flying most of January, they’ve been grounded of late.
After winning eight of the first 10 games (8-1-1) in January, Anaheim heads to Tampa on Saturday having lost three of the past five games following Friday’s loss at Florida to open a 14-day, six-game road trip. The Ducks are also expected to be without defenseman Sami Vatanen on Saturday after the blue liner left the game against Florida with a lower body injury after he was pinched along the boards, according to head coach Randy Carlyle.
Scoring has been part of the problem for the Ducks, who have been held to two or fewer goals in five of the past eight games and twice in the past three, including the 2-1 loss to the Panthers.
“We had our big guys with pucks on their stick in some critical situations,” Carlyle told the Orange County Register. “Couldn’t find the back of the net.”
The lack of offense has spoiled some strong goaltending performances for the Ducks, including John Gibson’s 35-save effort in the loss to Florida.
“He’s been real solid, you can’t deny that,” Carlyle told NHL.com. “In a game like tonight we wasted a strong performance from our goaltender.”
The Lighting, meanwhile, continue their season long struggle to find any consistency. Tampa Bay has just one win in the past seven games and has once again fallen to the bottom of the standings in the Eastern Conference. With 30 games left in the season, a trip to the playoffs will be a difficult time for a team that has reached the Eastern Conference finals the past two seasons.
“There are 30 games left, we can’t have that attitude that we are getting kicked when we are down,” center Brian Boyle said. “I don’t think any other team is feeling sorry for us right now and is going to give us a charity win along the way here. Every game is going to be like this.
“And whether we know it or not, it’s been like this in the past. The intensity ramps up in the second half and then again in the playoffs. We’ve been through that and had team confidence and had guys that had big years and we’ve advanced. We have to know that if we are going to quit, it’s going to get really ugly. We have enough time to do something here, regardless of what the outside thinks there are 30 games left and that’s a lot of points left on the board.”
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper, who has never missed the playoffs at any level of coaching, continues to try to find ways to keep the players on track to turn the season around. But the Lightning have not won consecutive games since Dec. 20-22.
“It’s a long year. It’s 82 games, there are ups and downs and there and so many different things that happen over a year,” Cooper said. “The one thing is we can’t look at it that way. You’ve got to look at your process and the work and the one thing we can never do is look at the name on the back of the jersey. You have got to look at the crest on the front. That’s what you’re playing for.”