As they battle for the Pacific Division lead while still having a shot at the top spot in the Western Conference, the Anaheim Ducks are getting a healthy dose of non-playoff contenders down the stretch.
That includes three dates with the last-place Edmonton Oilers, who look to avoid a 12th straight home loss to Anaheim on Friday night.
The Ducks (47-18-7) are in a tight race with San Jose for the division lead and will enter this contest with three games in hand. They’ll also have a game on St. Louis, which leads the West.
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Anaheim fell to the Sharks 3-2 last Thursday before beating Florida 6-2 on Sunday and coming from behind to defeat Calgary 3-2 on Wednesday. Those victories marked the first of nine straight games against teams currently outside the playoff picture.
The Ducks also will face the Oilers on April 2 at home and April 6 on the road.
"Our schedule is probably one of the easiest to finish the season," said Mathieu Perreault, who extended his point streak to six with the tying goal in the third period Wednesday. "We have to take advantage of all those games and hope for the best."
Andrew Cogliano scored the winner with 5:19 remaining, which kicked off a three-game road trip to Western Canada with a much-needed victory.
”That’s one of the biggest two points of the season,” Cogliano said. "We have to keep winning. San Jose has done a good job of staying ahead and winning games. It’s our turn now to keep responding and moving forward."
With the playoffs approaching, coach Bruce Boudreau scratched defenseman Francois Beauchemin to get him some extra rest. Boudreau said that will be a common theme down the stretch, though he didn’t specify who will be rested when.
"I plan to sit one defenseman out every game here," Boudreau said. "Beauch was just the first one. Our older guys need a little bit of a rest sometimes."
The young Oilers, meanwhile, are closing out another lost season for a franchise that hasn’t made the playoffs since losing to Carolina in the 2006 Stanley Cup finals.
Edmonton (25-39-9) fell 5-2 to the Sharks on Tuesday and has been outscored 16-4 during a three-game skid. It will end a six-game homestand against the New York Rangers on Sunday.
David Perron and Taylor Hall scored for the Oilers, who haven’t beaten the Ducks at home since Nov. 30, 2007. They’ve been outscored 18-3 in the last five meetings at Rexall Place.
”We wanted to come back and play solid after our last couple games and get back to the stuff that we had been having some success with,” captain Andrew Ference said after Tuesday’s loss. ”I think our five-on-five hockey was light years better than our last game. That wasn’t too tough to beat, though.”
Anaheim has won 11 of the last 12 matchups overall, including both this season. Jonas Hiller made 23 saves in a 3-2 victory Dec. 15 before stopping 16 shots in a 5-2 win Jan. 3.
Hiller could be in net again for this matchup, though he won’t oppose former backup Viktor Fasth, whom the Ducks traded to Edmonton at the deadline.
Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said he planned to start Fasth in each remaining matchup against the Ducks, but Fasth was injured in a collision in Monday’s practice and won’t be available.
Ben Scrivens, 1-4-0 with a 4.02 goals-against average in his last six appearances, will be in net for Edmonton.