NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Friday, February 28th (All times Eastern)
St. Louis Blues (39-13-6) at Anaheim Ducks (41-14-5), 10 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The NHL's best team this season will begin its post- Olympic schedule on Friday when the Anaheim Ducks emerge from the break to host the St. Louis Blues at the Honda Center.
The Ducks lead the NHL with 87 points, but they weren't exactly playing their best hockey of the season when the league went on hiatus in early February for the Sochi Olympics.
After winning 18 of 19 games from Dec. 6-Jan. 15, the Ducks went 5-6-0 over their last 11 contests before the break. The club was on a three-game losing streak until snapping that skid in their final game before the Winter Games, posting a 5-2 decision in Nashville on Feb. 8.
A trio of Ducks earned Olympic medals during the hiatus, with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf winning gold with Canada. The ageless Teemu Selanne also picked up a bronze for Team Finland, as the 43-year-old winger notched four goals and two assists in six games for his home country.
Although Anaheim has been the class of the league so far in 2013-14, head coach Bruce Boudreau warns his team can't be satisfied with what it's achieved so far.
"We have to grow as a team from now until the end of the year," Boudreau told the Ducks official website on Thursday. "We want to get better. We don't want to stay status quo, because every other team is going to get better. If you stay status quo come playoff time, teams are going to pass you by."
The Ducks are opening a five-game homestand on Friday and the club has been extremely difficult to beat in Anaheim this season, posting a 22-5-2 record at the Honda Center.
Anaheim also has a chance to sweep the season series against the Blues on Friday after taking the first two encounters of 2013-14 on the road. The Ducks posted a 5-2 win at Scottrade Center on Dec. 7 and followed with a 3-2 regulation win on Jan. 18.
The Ducks have won five of six in this series overall and have claimed the last six encounters in Orange County. St. Louis last won at the Honda Center on Oct. 17, 2009 and is 2-15-1 with a tie over its past 19 road games against the Ducks.
The Blues, who are only three points behind the Ducks for the Western Conference and NHL lead, will try to record their first win after the Olympics on Friday. St. Louis returned from the break on Wednesday, but fell 1-0 in a road game against the Vancouver Canucks.
Jannik Hansen scored the game's only goal late in the third and Eddie Lack posted a 20-save shutout to help the Canucks edge the Blues.
St. Louis had gone 3-0-1 in its four games prior to the break before being shut out for the first time this season on Wednesday. Jaroslav Halak stopped 34-of-35 shots for the Blues in the tough-luck loss.
St. Louis managed just three shots over the final 20 minutes.
"It was hard-fought, well-played game for the most part," St. Louis head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "I didn't think we had the energy in the third period."
St. Louis is playing the middle test of a three-game road trip on Friday before completing the swing Sunday in Phoenix. The Blues, who are 17-8-3 as the guest, are playing six of their first seven games after the break on the road.
02/28 10:53:39 ET