Hurricanes-Ducks Preview

The Anaheim Ducks need to overcome a large gap to reach the

final playoff spot in the Western Conference, but they’ve been

playing well of late.

So have the Eastern Conference-worst Carolina Hurricanes.

The Ducks look to build some momentum Wednesday night before

beginning a lengthy trip when they face a Hurricanes team trying to

win three in a row for the first time in nearly four months.

Ten points back of the eighth seed in the West, the Ducks

(20-24-8) have little room for error if they’re going to advance to

the postseason for the sixth time in seven years.

Anaheim, which opens a season-high eight-game trip Friday, is

riding a 10-2-2 surge following Monday’s 3-2 shootout win over

Calgary.

“We really needed those two points,” Jonas Hiller said after

making 24 saves through overtime.

Hiller has been a major contributor during the spurt, going

8-2-2 with a 1.93 goals-against average in his last 13 starts.

Anaheim gave up 49 goals in coach Bruce Boudreau’s first 14

games after he replaced the fired Randy Carlyle, but the club has

surrendered 29 during the 10-2-2 stretch.

“(Boudreau) just kind of tweaked our system a little bit, and we

just kind of simplified things and we’re not trying to do too much

out there,” defenseman Sheldon Brookbank said following Tuesday’s

practice.

Offensively, the Ducks are enjoying a well-balanced attack.

Teemu Selanne – two points shy of passing Brett Hull for 21st

all-time with 1,392 – leads the club with 14 points during the

surge, Ryan Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan have 11 and Saku Koivu, Corey

Perry and Lubomir Visnovsky all have 10.

“Their top guys are their best players, and they’re playing a

lot,” Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller told his team’s official

website. “When your best players are your best players, you’re

going to start winning games.”

The Hurricanes (20-25-9) have been doing the same lately, with

captain Eric Staal leading the way with eight points during a 6-2-2

spurt.

Jiri Tlusty has a team-best four goals in that span after

scoring in Saturday’s 2-1 home win over Los Angeles.

“He’s really picked his game up over the last 10 games or so,”

said Muller, whose team last won three straight Oct. 12-18 under

former coach Paul Maurice. “Offensively, he’s been making a lot of

things tick.”

Carolina could use continued production from second-year center

Jeff Skinner as it opens a three-game trip. The reigning Calder

Trophy winner knocked in the go-ahead third-period goal against the

Kings for his third score in eight games after missing 16 due to a

concussion.

“I’m not going to be digging on (goaltender) Cam Ward like that

in practice,” Skinner said. “Those sort of things take a while to

come back, and it was a good feeling.”

Ward, who has surrendered fewer than two goals in five of his

last seven starts, will make a 12th consecutive start – and first

in Anaheim.

“We’re going to ride him hard right now until the schedule

tightens up with more games condensed,” Muller said.

Ward is 2-0-0 with a 2.14 GAA in three starts against the Ducks.

He turned aside 43 shots the last time these teams met, a 4-2

victory Dec. 18, 2010.

Staal recorded a hat trick in that game to offset Getzlaf’s two

goals.

Selanne scored and set up a goal to help the Ducks avoid a third

straight home loss in this series, 3-2 on Nov. 25, 2009.