Different coasts, different directions — literally and figuratively.
That sums up the matchup between the Florida Panthers and Anaheim Ducks set for Tuesday night in Sunrise, Fla.
Anaheim (29-33-12, 70 points) has been eliminated from playoff contention for the a club-record fourth straight year. Only four Western Conference teams have fewer points than the Ducks.
Florida (51-15-6, 108 points) has already secured a playoff berth and leads the Eastern Conference with a franchise single-season record in points.
The Panthers will enter Tuesday on a seven-game win streak, one victory short of their best run of the season. That happened in October, when the Panthers opened 8-0-0, signaling that this could be a special year.
Florida is just the sixth NHL team in the past 25 years to score 300 or more goals in a season.
“If we do the right things and manage the puck,” Panthers interim coach Andrew Brunette said, “we will get our opportunities.”
Individually, winger Jonathan Huberdeau has had a great season, breaking the franchise record with 104 points. He has scored 27 goals with an NHL-high 77 assists and is on a season-best 11-game point streak.
Nine different Panthers have scored at least 15 goals this season, including Aleksander Barkov’s team-high 34 tallies.
Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe has already set career highs in goals (22), assists (30) and points (52). Impressively, all 22 of his goals have come at even strength.
The Panthers’ goalie tandem of Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight continues to impress. Bobrovsky is 34-6-3 with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .911 save percentage. Rookie Spencer Knight is 17-8-3 with a 2.83 GAA and a .906 save percentage. Knight is 8-2-1 with a .921 save percentage in his last 11 games.
The Ducks, who are 13-16-7 on the road this season, had their season sunk by an 11-game losing streak that lasted nearly all of March and didn’t end until April 1.
Ducks center Ryan Getzlaf, the longest-serving captain in franchise history, announced last week that he will be retiring at season’s end.
Getzlaf, who turns 37 next month, is a three-time All-Star who won the Stanley Cup in 2007. He scored a career-high 31 goals in 2013-14, but he has tallied just three times this season and eight in the past two seasons.
However, he mixed it up several times in Sunday’s 5-2 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes, and Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said Getzlaf is still a feisty player.
“He’s not going gently into the night,” Eakins said. “He’s going out swinging.”
While Getzlaf prepares for retirement, the Ducks are being powered by young players such as Troy Terry, 24, and Trevor Zegras, 21.
Terry leads the team in goals (32) and points (58). Zegras leads the team in assists (34) and ranks second in goals (20) and points (54).
Former first-round wingers Jacob Perreault, who turns 20 on Friday, and Brayden Tracey, who will be 21 next month, should be main contributors by next season. Lukas Dostal, Anaheim’s goalie of the future, will turn 22 in June and also made his NHL debut this season.
–Field Level Media