The visiting Anaheim Ducks and Pittsburgh Penguins will meet Monday in a clash of teams trying to take a turn for the better.
The Ducks are opening a six-game road trip after they could not capitalize on a franchise-record 10-game homestand. The team went 3-6-1 in that stretch, which ended Friday with a 6-2 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
Just one of those three wins came in regulation, and Anaheim scored two or fewer goals in eight of those 10 games. Opponents during that homestand averaged 4.2 goals a game.
“It’s really easy to just hang your head and feel sorry for yourself, but it’s not a league where anyone cares, really,” Ducks center Ryan Strome said.
“You’ve got to come prepared to play (82) games and show some fight. Right now it just feels like everything we’re doing is just going against us.”
Friday’s game was Anaheim’s third straight loss.
The Ducks embark on their road trip also looking to figure out how to win away from Honda Center. They are 4-14-3 on the road.
Perhaps it will help that Anaheim is catching Pittsburgh during a tough stretch.
The Penguins have lost two in a row, including 2-1 Saturday at the Carolina Hurricanes, and have dropped eight of their past 10 (2-6-2).
“You just have to pick yourself up and get right back at it,” Pittsburgh center Teddy Blueger said. “Obviously, you’ve got to learn from these games and make adjustments and try to be better.
“We’ve got another chance Monday to get two points. That’s the focus.”
The Penguins have been playing short-handed, especially on defense and in goal. Defenseman Kris Letang (injury and bereavement) has been out since Dec. 28, defenseman Jeff Petry (upper-body injury) has been out since Dec. 10 and defenseman Marcus Pettersson has missed the past two games because of illness. Pettersson’s status for Monday remains unclear.
That’s half of the main six, and arguably the team’s top three defensemen.
Pittsburgh No. 1 goaltender Tristan Jarry left the Jan. 2 outdoor Winter Classic because of a lower-body injury and has not resumed practicing with his teammates.
One area that could help swing Monday’s game is the Pittsburgh power play, if it can get untracked.
Anaheim averages 4.7 penalties a game, second-most in the NHL. The Penguins have what appears to be an offensively loaded lineup, but things have not transferred to their power play in a commensurate way lately.
Following a prolific stretch with at least one power-play goal in each of the first 10 games in December, Pittsburgh is 5-for-37 with a man-advantage over the past nine games. That includes 1-for-6 Saturday against the Hurricanes, but even then the one power-play goal came when Carolina goaltender Frederik Andersen badly misplayed the puck.
“We were one of the best power plays in the league for a long stretch,” Penguins coach Mike Sullivan said. “I think the solution is we just have to simplify the game again and go back to establishing a shot and getting a net-front presence and trying to create offense off of that. I think that’s when our power play is at its best.”
Letang is normally Pittsburgh’s quarterback on the power play. Ty Smith has been filling in.
–Field Level Media