A series of letdowns following a franchise-record winning streak has dropped the Anaheim Ducks out of the Pacific Division lead and into a battle for home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
The Boston Bruins are getting a heavy dose of that group's contenders during a road trip that could affect their standing in the Atlantic.
Anaheim looks to snap out of its funk by winning a fifth straight meeting with the Bruins on Friday night.
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The Ducks' post-Christmas surge included a club-best 11-game winning streak from Feb. 13-March 5 to put them in first place for the first time all season.
Anaheim has gone 1-3-1 since, though, while totaling four goals in the defeats, conjuring up thoughts of the scoring woes that plagued it at the start of the season. Jamie McGinn scored in the first period Wednesday, but the Ducks (38-22-9) couldn't muster anything else in a 2-1 home loss to the New York Rangers.
They had gone 9-0-1 at home since last losing in regulation there Jan. 17.
''I thought we passed up way too many chances to shoot,'' coach Bruce Boudreau said after Anaheim didn't have a power-play opportunity for the first time since Dec. 19. ''We tried to be cute, and when we're a cute team and not just getting pucks to the net, we're not successful.”
Los Angeles has reclaimed the Pacific lead during the Ducks' slump, and San Jose would be Anaheim's first-round opponent if the standings held. The Sharks helped their cause for home-ice advantage in that potential series with Tuesday's 3-2 win over the Bruins.
That was the first of eight road games over the next nine for Boston (39-24-8), which still has one of the league's best road records at 23-8-3. David Krejci and Loui Eriksson scored in the first period before the Bruins had their seven-game point streak snapped.
They'll finish their trip through California by facing the Ducks and Kings on back-to-back nights.
“We're playing a pretty good three teams on this road trip, so take it game by game,” Krejci said. “Too bad we didn't get two points (Tuesday), but we should learn from this and play a full 60 minutes, not just the first and third periods. Hopefully we learn from our mistakes and be better next game.”
Boston is in the thick of what has essentially become a three-team race for the Atlantic title with Florida and Tampa Bay. Its only home game during the road-heavy stretch is against the Panthers on March 24.
“We're just going to have to keep plugging away,” goaltender Tuukka Rask said. “These are all tough teams and we have to play a really tight defensive game and wait for our opportunities. We realize that we have to get some points out of here and focus on Anaheim and L.A. coming up and try to get some wins.”
Rask was chased after two periods in a 6-2 loss to Anaheim on Jan. 26 as six different Ducks recorded at least two points. It's uncertain if Rask will get the start as the Bruins try to beat Anaheim for the first time since Oct. 31, 2013.
John Gibson could be in net for the Ducks, who begin a five-game trip following this contest.