Ducks look to end losing streak as they host Coyotes
Superb goaltending played a major role in lifting the Anaheim Ducks as high as second in the Pacific Division early last week, but they'll need to rely on their offense more than ever beginning Saturday night against the Arizona Coyotes at Honda Center.
The Ducks lost No. 1 goalie John Gibson to an upper-body injury during a 4-2 loss at the San Jose Sharks on Thursday night, their fourth loss in a row. Anaheim was already without backup goalie Ryan Miller, who sustained a knee injury on Dec. 9 and will be sidelined another four weeks.
Through the first 35 games, Gibson and Miller combined to lead the Ducks to a 19-11-5 mark. The Ducks (19-15-5) still own the top save-percentage in the NHL at .918 while facing the second-most shots in the league at 34.8 a game.
Anaheim claimed goalie Chad Johnson off waivers from the St. Louis Blues on Dec. 11, and the eight-year veteran gave up two goals on 23 shots in a 3-1 loss at the New York Rangers on Dec. 18, the start of the current four-game losing streak.
He then allowed two goals on 22 shots after replacing Gibson on Thursday.
"You never know in this league what's going to happen," Johnson told reporters after the loss to San Jose.
Arizona (16-19-2) is coming off a 2-1 loss at the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. The Kings are the lowest-scoring team in the NHL at 2.29 goals a game, the Coyotes the third-lowest (2.49), and the Ducks are in between (2.41).
The Ducks and Arizona met twice in the first full week of this season.
Gibson had 41 saves in a 1-0 win in Phoenix on Oct. 6. The Coyotes came back with a 3-2 shootout win four days later in Anaheim. Antti Raanta made 23 saves in that win, but he's been out the past month with a lower-body injury with no timetable for his return.
Darcy Kuemper has taken over as the No. 1 goalie for Arizona since returning from a lower-body injury on Dec. 11 and he's been solid. The offense, however, has been held to one goal in four of his past five outings.
Kuemper stopped 24 of 26 shots against the Kings, but the Coyotes couldn't muster a second goal and lost 2-1.
"We didn't win the game, so we get back to the drawing board at practice and, you know, keep grinding away," Arizona coach Rick Tocchet told reporters after the game.
The Coyotes, who last made the postseason in 2012, were just seven points out of the final playoff spot entering Friday.
Not only have the Ducks dropped four in a row, but the Edmonton Oilers have also lost four straight, the Minnesota Wild five in a row and the Dallas Stars six of their past nine, leaving the Coyotes' well within reach heading into the second half of the season.
The Ducks were second in the Pacific Division when their four-game losing streak began. They head into Saturday fourth in the division and just three points from dropping out of a wild-card spot.
"If we can continue to play simple, we'll get out of our skid here soon," Ducks rookie right wing Kiefer Sherwood told Fox Sports West after scoring his fifth goal of the season Thursday.