Thursday, March 24, 2011
Ducks: Hiller set to return vs. Predators
By Dan Arritt
Ducks (41-27-5, 87 points) vs. Nashville Predators (39-25-10, 88) at Bridgestone Arena, 5 p.m. PT
Five storylines to track:
1. Jonas is a bonus – Ducks goalkeeper Jonas Hiller, sidelined since Feb. 13 with vertigo-like symptoms that had him feeling like he was skating in glue, is set to start tonight against the Predators. Hiller was 25-16-3 heading into his first All-Star appearance, then came down with the unexplained symptoms in his first game back. He sat out four games, returned to shut out Edmonton, then had recurring spells and went on injured reserve. He’s 3-5-0 lifetime against Nashville with a 2.39 goals-against average.
2. Heading in right direction – Both the Ducks and Nashville have won four straight heading into this game, the main reason they’re both in the top eight in the Western Conference standings. The Ducks haven’t won five straight since a six-game winning streak in November. They’ve been playing especially well on the road, winning nine of their last 11 away from Honda Center. The Predators have won two of three against Anaheim this season and will be looking to win their first season series since 2003-04.
3. Nashville nemesis – Ducks second-line center Saku Koivu has four of his 14 goals against the Predators this season. He scored twice in Anaheim’s only victory against Nashville this season, a 5-4 victory Nov. 7. Koivu hasn’t been as sharp lately. He was out from Feb. 19 to March 9 with a sore groin and has just one goal in his last 11 games. He has been setting others up, however, owning five assists in the seven games since he returned from injury.
4. Hitting his stride -- David Legwand, a former No. 2 overall draft pick of the Red Wings, has had just one season with more than 50 points in his previous 10 years in the NHL, but the Nashville center is scoring like a healthy Sidney Crosby in the last 10 games. Legwand, a 30-year-old Detroit native, has four goals and eight assists in that span. He’s currently riding his second four-game points streak in the last 10 games.
5. Tough obstacle -- Nashville goalkeeper Pekka Rinne is among the names discussed for the Vezina Trophy, which is annually awarded to the league’s top net minder. Rinne is second in the NHL in goals-against average (2.07) and save percentage (.930) and tied with Jonathan Quick of the Kings and two others for fourth with six shutouts. Rinne has been tough on the Ducks in his career too, owning a 5-2-2 lifetime record and 1.94 GAA.