Ducks look to toughen Jets’ path to playoff berth

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The Anaheim Ducks will look to play spoiler at home Thursday night when they welcome the Winnipeg Jets to town.

The Jets are holding onto the final playoff spot in the Western Conference’s wild-card race, while the Ducks (23-38-10, 56 points) were officially cut from postseason contention for the fifth consecutive season on Sunday.

It’s not unusual for teams to loosen up once they’re formally eliminated after spending most of season far out of the postseason picture. But with nothing left to lose, many teams rise up.

That, however, hasn’t been the case for Anaheim so far.

With 11 games remaining, the Ducks have hit yet another skid and are losers of four of their last five.

“Obviously, not a good game for us,” Ducks winger Jakob Silfverberg said after Tuesday’s 5-1 loss to the Calgary Flames. “We have had some spurts where we’re playing some pretty good hockey, but it can’t only be spurts. It’s got to be throughout the whole game.”

Anaheim has had terrible trouble with slow starts.

They sit dead last in the league at minus-33 in first-period goal differential. That point was magnified on Tuesday when the Flames got a goal 37 seconds into the contest from Nick Ritchie.

“It’s a terrible way to start a game,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. “You’re down 1-0 and the people haven’t even got in their seats yet, and then we followed it up, right after that, with a penalty. You just can’t start games that way.”

The Ducks are the fifth-most penalized team in the NHL, matching that with a 29th-ranked penalty kill.

That might help the Jets (40-29-3, 83 points) get more chances and even a few goals on the power play. The man advantage has been horrific lately, going 0-for-19 over the last five games.

It is Winnipeg’s hope that getting things going on the power play will help take the stress off of netminder Connor Hellebuyck.

Hellebuyck has made the third-most saves while playing the second-most minutes in the league.

“He’s been incredible for us, certainly all year and for a long time,” Jets defenseman Josh Morrissey said. “That’s what he does for us and we’re certainly happy that he’s on our side.

Winnipeg coach Rick Bowness was impressed with his club’s pushback following a 2-1 win over Arizona on Tuesday night at home.

Before that game, he challenged his players to show on the ice, with their details, how badly they wanted to make the playoffs.

“In the third period, there was a lot of energy on the bench and that took itself out on the ice. We had everyone going,” Bowness said after the game. “They knew what was at stake. They knew we had to find a way to win.”

Calgary is four points behind Winnipeg for the final playoff spot, while Nashville is five back with three games in hand.

The Ducks will hope that Troy Terry will remain in the lineup. He left Tuesday’s game versus the Flames with an undisclosed injury following a collision with two opponents in the third period.

–Field Level Media

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