The Anaheim Ducks and St. Louis Blues have been among the best teams in the NHL over the past few seasons, and early returns suggest this one will be no different.
Anaheim, however, has a lopsided advantage in the recent history between the clubs at Honda Center.
The Ducks look to continue their dominance of the Blues with an eighth straight home win in this series Sunday night.
Article continues below ...
Anaheim (4-1-0) has won the last two Pacific Division titles, while St. Louis (2-1-1) has more points than all but three teams since 2011-12.
So far, each team looks capable of another big regular season. Anaheim has won four games in a row and the Blues have outscored opponents 10-3 during a 2-0-1 stretch.
"They’re as good a team as there is in the National Hockey League," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "They’re big and strong, and it’s going to be a tremendous test to see where we’re at as compared to where they are.
"It usually is just a man’s game. You gotta be willing to take a hit and get hit because it’s a tough one."
Anaheim, though, is 17-2-0 with a tie over its last 20 home meetings with the Blues, taking seven in a row after winning 1-0 on Feb. 28.
The Ducks’ success in the series has gone beyond home ice, as they’ve gone 6-0-1 in the last seven overall matchups – including wins in all three last season.
They haven’t lost since their season opener after scoring twice in the third period Friday to beat Minnesota 2-1 in their home debut.
"It’s good confidence for us to know that we can do it. Obviously, we know we can do it, but we gotta stop starting the way we’re starting and playing games like that," forward Matt Beleskey said. "It’s good to be able to come back. Good teams find ways to win."
Starter Brian Elliott figures to be back in net after backup Jake Allen made 24 saves in Saturday’s 6-1 win at Arizona. The Blues went 4 for 4 on the power play against the Coyotes, but it’s been their strong goaltending that has coach Ken Hitchcock most excited.
”We’ve had really good goaltending every game we’ve played so far this year,” Hitchcock said. ”That’s really a good sign. They give us a chance to win every night.”
Elliott, who has a 1.31 goals-against average and .940 save percentage in his three starts this season, is 0-4-2 with a 3.44 GAA over his last six against Anaheim.
All the offense St. Louis needed Saturday came from Jaden Schwartz, who had his first career hat trick and added an assist on David Backes’ second goal of the season.
Schwartz has three goals in seven career meetings with the Ducks.
The Blues could have trouble repeating Saturday’s offensive performance with Frederik Andersen likely to start in goal. He’s won all four of his starts this season behind a 1.72 GAA.
Andersen stopped 60 of 64 shots while winning both of his career contests with St. Louis, but this will be the first at home.
Corey Perry’s five goals lead the Ducks, putting him one behind the New York Rangers’ Rick Nash for the league lead. Perry has four goals and three assists during Anaheim’s home winning streak against the Blues.