The Anaheim Ducks are vying for the Pacific Division crown while the Edmonton Oilers are in the basement, but there is reason to believe Sunday night's matchup will be competitive.
The Ducks have developed a disturbing pattern of falling behind early while the Oilers are back home after a trip in which they played well and knocked off a playoff contender.
Anaheim (50-19-8) is in a tight race with San Jose for the division title and is two points shy of a franchise-record 110, set in 2006-07 when it won its lone Stanley Cup.
The Ducks had a three-game win streak snapped in the finale of a three-game homestand with Friday's 5-2 loss to Nashville. They fell behind 3-0 in the first 13:52.
"We can't let this happen," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We have to find a way. Sometimes, for one reason or another, we're not getting the job done early. We're a really good team with the lead, but we just haven't had the lead lately."
Every game on Anaheim's homestand began in similar fashion. The Ducks fell behind 2-0 after one period and rallied from four goals down in Monday's 5-4 overtime win over Winnipeg and came back from a two-goal deficit in Wednesday's 3-2 victory over Edmonton (27-42-9), which had an 11-9 advantage in shots through a scoreless first period.
"We're not starting games on time," center Ryan Getzlaf said. "Eventually someone is going to beat you, especially when you give up three or four goals right off the hop."
Jonas Hiller started Friday and yielded four goals on 17 shots, and Frederik Andersen stopped six of seven. Hiller was pulled in the first period but returned for the third.
"We haven't been good defensively," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said. "That's one aspect of our game that we have to get better at for the playoffs. Every single guy has to be better, mentally sharp and ready to play. We all know what we have to do."
The Oilers not only nearly beat the Ducks this past week, they also took a one-goal lead in the third period the previous night in a 5-4 road loss to the Sharks. Edmonton capped the three-game trip with Friday's 3-2 shootout win over Phoenix, as Sam Gagner tied the game with 40.4 seconds left in regulation.
"It's not about being so much the spoiler. It's fun to be a part of a game that means something," coach Dallas Eakins said. "We're playing teams that these games are huge for them and we understand. It's fun and it's challenging to be in games that really mean something to the other team and I was very interested in how our guys were going to respond."
Eakins gave Ben Scrivens the start in goal against the Coyotes, but could turn back to Viktor Fasth. Fasth made 23 saves Wednesday in his first game against his former team, which traded him to the Oilers on March 4.
Edmonton ended an 0-8-3 home slide in the series with a 4-3 victory March 28 despite being outshot 51-23.
Retiring Ducks star Teemu Selanne is expected to rest the opener of this back-to-back set to play Monday in Vancouver.