Now or never for Anaheim Ducks
The Anaheim Ducks, slowly watching their season slip away, hope for a lucky 13 remaining games beginning with Nashville on Wednesday to save their playoff chances.
The Ducks are 1-3-1 in their last five games. As high as fifth place in the standings earlier in 2009, Anaheim has spiralled downward in the Western Conference standings.
Anaheim finds itself five points out of the last playoff spot, but there are also three teams ahead in the chase for eighth, currently held by Nashville. The Ducks have 32 wins, fewer than the other teams in the hunt, and have also lost both previous meetings this season with the Predators.
It seems almost inconceivable that a team with Chris Pronger, Scott Niedermayer and Ryan Getzlaf would fail to reach the post-season just two years after winning the Stanley Cup.
Niedermayer has only missed the post-season once in his career, while it's been 14 years since Pronger saw his season end without a playoff berth.
Anaheim appears headed toward continuing an ignoble league trend, however. While the merits of parity have been touted by the NHL, Tampa Bay, Carolina and the Ducks have failed to win even a single playoff round since taking the Stanley Cup.
New Jersey (2003) was the last Cup champion to have won a round in subsequent years.
Former teammate Travis Moen scored the lone goal on Sunday as Anaheim lost an intense 1-0 affair to San Jose. Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller made 29 saves in net.
Anaheim has scored just 10 times in the last five games and has fallen to 23rd in the NHL in scoring. Given that the Ducks are 11th on the power play in the league, the problem has clearly been even-strength scoring.
"We just have to stay confident," said forward Teemu Selanne. "Wednesday is another chance. We just have to keep pushing like this and we're going to score a couple of goals."
Predators in the hunt
Nashville (35-30-5) is in the process of fashioning an unlikely comeback story. With few marquee names, the Predators were back of the pack through the first four months of the season.
But after defeating Los Angeles 4-3 on Monday, the Predators upped their record to 15-7-2 since the NHL all-star break.
"We want to win every night, but our mentality right now is try and scrape points out of every game that we can and be as gritty as we can be," said Steve Sullivan. "We wanted to propel ourselves back into the playoffs and make sure we created some separation between us and them."
After a slow start, Sullivan — who had back problems — has 17 points in as many games, scoring in the wins over the Kings.
Joel Ward, Shea Weber and Ryan Jones, with the winner late in the third, were the other goal scorers.
Rookie goalie Pekka Rinne made 26 saves to improve to 24-11-1. Rinne has won eight of his last nine, with three shutouts during that span.
The Ducks and Predators will meet for the final time in six days.
With files from the Associated Press