ANAHEIM, Calif. — Two teams whose seasons are heading in opposite directions will meet Tuesday night when the Anaheim Ducks play the New York Islanders at the Honda Center.
The Ducks share first place in the Pacific Division with the Los Angeles Kings and the surprising Edmonton Oilers. The Islanders, meanwhile, own the worst record in the Eastern Conference following a frustrating November. New York has lost four consecutive games this month and seven of eight. Two losses took place during overtime, another two in shootouts.
Scoring has been such a big problem for the Islanders that first-line center John Tavares has seen a constant rotation of different wingers all season. So has left winger Andrew Ladd, who signed a seven-year contract worth $38.5 million as a free agent but has just two goals, one assist and a minus-4 rating after 17 games.
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Nevertheless, general manager Garth Snow expressed public confidence in Ladd, who scored 24 goals and amassed a career-high 62 points for the Winnipeg Jets two years ago.
“Andrew Ladd is not defined as a hockey player by scoring goals,” Snow told New York Newsday. “It's a lot of different things he does, whether it's being a tough SOB to play against or his leadership. He didn't have many goals last year around Christmas and then he turned it on. He's a winner. He's a big part of our club.”
Snow's confidence extends to the rest of the Islanders.
“I have a lot of belief in everyone in that room,” Snow told Newsday. “The great part about facing adversity is that you see who rises to the top. When you face adversity, it's a great challenge, and I look forward to seeing who rises to that challenge.”
Two defensemen, Dennis Seidenberg and Ryan Pulock, will remain unavailable for the Islanders' lone trip to California. Seidenberg has a broken jaw and is not eating solid food. Pulock will accompany the team but only to continue his conditioning as he recovers from a broken right foot he suffered Oct. 21 against the Arizona Coyotes.
After playing the Ducks, New York will face the Kings on Wednesday night, then travel to San Jose to play the Sharks on Friday night.
The Islanders will begin their trip facing a team in search of itself. Despite winning five of the past eight games, the Ducks have yet two win more than two in a row. Anaheim sabotaged its chance for a third successive victory Sunday night with two listless opening periods in a 3-2 loss to the Kings.
“We didn't play anywhere near where we're capable of,” Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle said. “They outworked us for two periods. Pucks were going through our sticks. We couldn't execute a tape-to-tape pass. They basically manhandled us against the wall, and we didn't get involved physically until the third period.”
Carlyle believes the Ducks' performance against their cross-town rivals illustrates a bigger problem.
“I think we're a hockey club that is still trying to find its way,” Carlyle told the Los Angeles Times. “We haven't really created our identity yet. Consistency, in everybody's mind, is going to be a challenge well beyond the 20-game mark.”