John Gibson's superb play has the Anaheim Ducks in good spirits for their longest homestand of the season.
They'll begin this important eight-game stretch Sunday night against one of the NHL's poorer road teams, the Winnipeg Jets, as Gibson vies for a third consecutive shutout.
Despite winning three of four and earning a point in five straight, Anaheim (15-15-7) still returns home 13th in the Western Conference with 37 points. The Ducks have an opportunity to gain ground with five conference foes set to visit the Honda Center, where they're 9-5-4 this season and 3-1-0 in their last four.
“We can make a big step here by winning a lot of games at home,” coach Bruce Boudreau said.
The defending Pacific Division champions come back optimistic after going 2-0-1 on a road trip in which they yielded only three goals. Gibson set the tone by making 14 saves in Tuesday's 1-0 win at Calgary and followed with 21 in another 1-0 victory over Edmonton on Thursday.
Since being promoted from the AHL on Nov. 24, Gibson has recorded a league-best 1.68 goals-against average and four shutouts in 14 appearances. He's expected to play after Frederik Andersen worked Friday's 2-1 shootout loss at Vancouver.
The Ducks have needed Gibson to be great, they scored just three goals on their trip and have netted a league-low 68 overall.
“Hopefully we can score some more goals and give our goalies some help. They've been playing great,” forward Andrew Cogliano said.
The Ducks' slumping offense took another hit when Cam Fowler injured his knee last Sunday against Philadelphia. The defenseman and power-play quarterback will miss at least three additional weeks with a Grade 2 sprain.
Scoring wasn't an issue in Anaheim's matchups with Winnipeg (18-18-2) last season. The Ducks amassed 12 goals in winning all three regular-season meetings and 16 in sweeping the Jets in the West quarterfinals. They've won eight straight against Winnipeg including the playoffs.
Ryan Kesler had three goals and two assists in the playoff series, but the one-time 41-goal scorer posted only his fifth in 37 games this season in Friday's defeat.
The Jets enter on a high note after Saturday's 4-1 win in San Jose ended a six-game road skid. They opened this season-high five-game trek with Thursday's 4-2 loss to Arizona after winning two straight at home.
Drew Stafford had a short-handed goal and Mathieu Perreault scored on the power play to back Connor Hellebuyck's 27 saves and boost a special teams unit that's been among the league's worst. Winnipeg ranks 29th on the power play at 14.4 percent and is 1 for 21 over its last seven on the road, where its dropped 11 of 13 and is 7-13-1 overall.
The Jets have surrendered a power-play goal in eight of 10 games, killing just 71.8 percent of short-handed situations over that span. They were 4 for 5 against the Sharks.
“We talked a lot about discipline and we did a better job of staying out of the box and getting the kills when we needed,” Perreault said.
Hellebuyck has started 11 of the last 13 games, meaning the struggling Michael Hutchinson could get the nod Sunday. Hutchinson has posted a 3.79 GAA in losing seven consecutive starts, allowing at least three goals in six.