Predators try to continue mastery of Ducks
The Nashville Predators have been dominant against the Anaheim Ducks in recent years, and the top team in the Western Conference will try to continue that trend when the teams meet Monday night at Honda Center.
The Predators (13-3-0) have won two playoff series in the past three seasons against the Ducks and have gone 6-2-1 in regular-season meetings in that span.
The odds appear stacked against the Ducks again Monday as the Predators have won five in a row for the second time this season to bring the NHL's best record into the game.
The Ducks have dropped nine of their past 11 games (2-7-2) to erase a promising 5-1-1 start.
They were beset by injuries during the early part of the season, but as key players have begun returning to the lineup, the Ducks have been unable to turn the corner and start building a winning streak.
Anaheim posted emotional wins in the past week against the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets and Calgary Flames, only to lose one-sided games to the Los Angeles Kings and Minnesota Wild the next time they took the ice.
After the 5-1 loss to the Wild on Friday night, some veterans on the Ducks questioned their mental approach.
"We gained a little bit of momentum with how we've been playing, and we knew it was going to be a game that we needed to play tight. We needed to earn it," Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said. "That just shows we weren't willing to do anything to win the game."
The Predators swept all three meetings against the Ducks last season.
In the final meeting on March 8 in Nashville, Anaheim center Ryan Kesler and Predators center Ryan Johansen dropped their gloves late in the second period after Nashville scored short-handed to go up 3-0.
Johansen said after the 4-2 victory that Kesler had been requesting a fight for most of the game.
Then in August, Kesler tweeted for the first time in months, randomly asking Johansen how his summer training was going, and if he'd like to "meet me in the streets before we get going on the ice."
Johansen simply replied, "I'll pay for your parking."
Presumably, that meeting never took place, so Monday night will be the first time they've faced each other since last March.
The Predators were without forward Calle Jarnkrok in their 5-4 overtime victory at the Dallas Stars on Saturday because of a lower-body injury. He participated in warmups, so there's a good chance he's close to returning.
One area the Predators hope to improve is their power play. They came into Sunday with a 13.6-percent success rate, tied with the Montreal Canadiens for 30th in the NHL. Nashville finished 12th in the league last year at 21.2 percent.
Nashville defenseman Roman Josi scored a power-play goal with 42.5 seconds left in regulation against the Stars on Saturday, allowing the Predators to win their eighth straight road game to open the season, but told the Tennessean they're not satisfied with their overall production with the man-advantage.
"We're not happy with the way it's going right now," He said. "It's something we want to change as soon as possible."