NHL: Struggling Ducks, Jackets look to finish off season strong

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In a long season for both the Blue Jackets and Ducks, the two struggling teams will try to create some late positives when Columbus visits Anaheim on Friday.

The Blue Jackets (21-39-7, 49 points) have the fewest points in the NHL, while the Ducks (22-36-10, 54 points) rank 30th among the 32 teams.

It seemed as though the Ducks were getting into some kind of good form when they recorded points in eight of nine games (5-1-3) heading into a Tuesday matchup with the New York Islanders. Anaheim held a 2-1 lead through the first period before allowing the game’s next five goals in an eventual 6-3 loss.

“We’ve taken some really great strides, but tonight we took a step backwards,” Anaheim coach Dallas Eakins said. Pointing to how the Ducks had success when they “played in behind” opponents’ defenses in their previous two games, Eakins felt the strategy was abandoned against New York.

“We decided that we were just going to skate through them,” Eakins said. “And we turned the puck over and we turned it over again and again. We just couldn’t come out of it.”

The Ducks had 23 shots against the Islanders, continuing their recent difficulties in getting the puck on the net. In 11 games since Feb. 21, Anaheim is averaging a league-low 24.8 shots per game.

Columbus is 1-4-1 in its past six games, including a 4-1 road loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday. A scoreless game was suddenly blown wide open in the second period, when the Blue Jackets conceded four goals in 9:04 of ice time.

The Kings’ flurry chased Jackets goaltender Daniil Tarasov from the game, but Columbus defenseman Erik Gudbranson felt Tarasov “didn’t deserve what ended up coming his way.”

“(Tarasov) was tremendous at the start at the start, he made some tremendous saves,” Gudbranson said. “We turned some pucks over at the blue line and it (came) back to bite us.”

Michael Hutchinson stopped all nine shots faced in 26:02 of play, and the unexpected relief outing likely won’t impact Hutchinson’s planned status as Friday’s starter. Playing on consecutive nights, the Blue Jackets were expected to split starts between the two goaltenders.

Columbus is 3-8-2 in the second half of back-to-backs this season.

Kirill Marchenko scored the Blue Jackets’ only goal on Thursday. Marchenko is the third rookie in Jackets history to reach the 17-goal mark in his first NHL season, and he is well within reach of Pierre-Luc Dubois’ team rookie record of 20 goals.

Anaheim backup goalie Lukas Dostal is the probable starter Friday, as John Gibson is expected to get a break after playing in eight of the Ducks’ past 10 games. Dostal is 3-5-2 with a 3.90 goals against average and an .898 save percentage over 11 games this season.

Forward Jakob Silfverberg is questionable for Anaheim’s lineup after missing practice Thursday due to illness.

The Ducks won the first meeting against the Blue Jackets this season, coming back from a 3-0 deficit for a 5-3 comeback win in Columbus on Jan. 19. Dating back to March 2018, the Ducks have seven wins in their past eight games against the Blue Jackets.

–Field Level Media

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