The Preds managed to steal a point last night against the Ducks. falling 4-3 in OT. Untimely, and frankly, some inexplicable penalties cost the Preds last night as Anaheim shredded the PK, converting on three of their five chances including the game winner 34 seconds into the overtime period. In their prior eight games, the Ducks had gone 1 for 28 on the PP. Go figure. I talked to Coach Brent Peterson before the game, and he said that Anaheim would come at the Preds hard in the first, and he was right. Pekka Rinne kept the game from getting out of hand, giving up the first goal of the game to Cory Perry, who was alone (it seemed like forever) in front of the net. Pekka later stopped a 2 on 0 rush to keep the Preds close. Joel Ward continued his strong play, tallying two goals, and J.P. Dumont added another marker as his scoring touch seems to have returned on this road trip. There were stretches in the game when the Ducks seemed to dominate, working their cycle to perfection in our zone. Weathering those stretches, the Preds responded with two power play goals by Ward, the last to tie the game with 2:42 remaining in the third. The Vern Fiddler tripping penalty was just inexcusable, and it cost the Preds in the OT on the PP carry over, as Selanne tipped in a slap pass from Pronger for the game winner.
There are positives from this game. The Preds are undermanned with the loss of Bonk and Arnott, neither of which will play on this road trip, and the injury to Belak, who is now back in Nashville. Yet they continued to battle and fought back to gain a precious point to remain 7th in the Western Conference. The PP clicked for two goals last night, with Ward doing battle in front of the net to tip home two goals. This team continues to dig deep, knowing that each game is in essence a playoff game. They have captured 5 of a possible 6 points; I thought at the beginning of the trip they would need at least six points out of this swing to stay in contention. A chance for another two points tonight against San Jose, another big, physical team that is going to come after the Preds hard. The puck drops at 7:30.
The coaches have told me that Pekka Rinne is scheduled to get the start tonight.
Some observations about last night's game environment. The Honda Center is a magnificent facility. The main concourse is all marble and very ornate- probably the nicest arena that I have seen. I was in the lower bowl for the pre-skate, and the seating area surprisingly shows a lot of wear. All of the seats were dirty and many showed some wear. The sight lines are great for hockey and the video displays are awesome. Not only do they have video's that are displayed on the jumbotron, but they also have large video boards at each end of the arena that show the game and the replays. This is a great hockey venue.
The arena was at about 70% capacity last night- lots of empty seats in the upper bowl and a surprising number of empty seats in the lower bowl. The crowd last night was incredibly laid back. Lots of cheering for a goal and not much else. No spontaneity and energy whatsoever. Must be that California lifestyle.
No morning skate today for the Preds as the coaching staff has decided to hold team meetings at the hotel and keep the guys off their feet. I expect tonight's game to be a physical contest, and it is essential that the Preds play with discipline and stay out of the box. We all know only too well the Sharks PP can make you pay for penalties. I talked with several of the players this morning and there is a workman like attitude to tonight's game. They know where they are in the playoff hunt and what they have to do to lock down a berth. The fact this team is not at full strength is just a fact of life, and they are dealing with it appropriately. I look for the guys to step up and play with the heart and character that they have exhibited so far.