Key matchup before break pits Ducks against Oilers (Jan 25, 2017)

BY AP • January 24, 2017

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- Two of the Western Conference's best teams will continue their quest to dominate the Pacific Division when the Anaheim Ducks and the Edmonton Oilers meet in their last game before the All-Star break on Wednesday night at the Honda Center.

The Ducks, who held first place going into Tuesday, lead the surprising Oilers by three points.

Since a 5-1 road loss to the Montreal Canadiens on Dec. 20, Anaheim secured points in all but two of its ensuing 16 games. Two of those points came Monday night in a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets, Randy Carlyle's 300th victory as coach.

"It wasn't the prettiest game we've played all year," Anaheim center Ryan Getzlaf told NHL.com. "But we're finding ways to get points and wins, especially after a tough loss."

The Ducks, who squandered a 3-1 lead in a 5-3 loss to the Minnesota Wild in their previous game Saturday night, relied on special teams to beat the Jets.

Anaheim's power play converted one of two chances while the penalty killers defused all five of Winnipeg's power plays, and even scored a short-handed goal. Both units rank eighth in their respective categories among NHL teams.

But the Ducks will play without right winger Jakob Silfverberg for the third successive game. Silfverberg suffered a head injury after receiving a clean check from behind by Colorado Avalanche defenseman Nikita Zadulov early in the third period on Thursday night.

In the middle of last season, Silfverberg joined center Ryan Kesler and left winger Andrew Cogliano to form Anaheim's most consistent line, one that not only can produce offensively but also can stifle opposing top lines. Silfverberg's plus-13 rating leads the team and his 13 goals rank third.

"You don't replace players that make that type of contribution easily," Carlyle told the Orange County Register. "So we're going to look at other people now. When somebody goes down and somebody's missing from your lineup, it expands the role and gives the opportunity for somebody else to step into a larger role."

Without Silfverberg, the Ducks will have to handle Edmonton center Connor McDavid, one of the NHL's best young talents. McDavid leads the league with 40 assists and 56 points one season after he missed three months of his rookie year because of a broken clavicle.

Elsewhere, right winger Leon Draisaitl has seven points in his last six games. Fellow right winger Jordan Eberle scored three goals and five points in his past three gamess after a streak of 18 games without a goal, the longest drought of his career.

Goalie Cam Talbot compiled a 3-0-1 record, a 1.65 goals-against average and a .943 save percentage in his previous four games.

As a result, the Oilers have a chance to reach the Stanley Cup playoffs for the first time in 11 years -- and exceed 40 wins for just the third time since the days of Hall of Famers Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Grant Fuhr.

"The fans are excited and getting behind us," Eberle told the Edmonton Journal. "There's 100 percent more excitement. A playoff spot hasn't come for a long time. But we're playing meaningful games in the home stretch of the season. Anytime you're winning, the city and the crowd get behind you. It's a lot more enjoyable."



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