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Ducks hope to extend Pacific lead in Edmonton
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Anaheim Ducks will try to extend their lead atop the Pacific Division when they visit the lowly Edmonton Oilers in Sunday's meeting at Rexall Place.
The Ducks are headed to the playoffs for the third time in four seasons, but the club obviously would prefer to enter the postseason as division champions. Anaheim is currently one point ahead of the San Jose Sharks, who are idle Sunday after dropping a home decision against Nashville on Saturday. The Ducks have five games left in the regular season compared to San Jose's three.
Anaheim had a three-game winning streak halted its last time out and also was dealt its first regulation loss in two weeks after Friday's 5-2 home setback to Nashville. The Ducks fell behind 3-0 in the opening period and were down 4-1 to the Predators by the end of 20 minutes.
Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller started and was pulled late in the first period, but was back on the ice for the third and stopped 13-of-17 shots. Frederik Andersen relieved Hiller in the first, but wasn't on the ice for the third as he appeared to be shaken up after getting hit in the mask with a shot and stopped 6-of-7 shots.
"We can't let this happen. We have to find a way," said Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau. "Sometimes, for one reason or another, we're not getting the job done early. We're a really good team with the lead, but we just haven't had the lead lately."
Kyle Palmieri and Daniel Winnik scored for the Ducks, who were 5-0-1 in their previous six games. The regulation setback was the first for Anaheim since it dropped a 3-2 decision in San Jose on March 20.
Anaheim hopes to rebound Sunday in the opener of a two-game road trip. The Ducks, who will visit Vancouver on Monday, are 23-11-4 as the visiting team this season and have won four of their last six road games.
The Ducks have dominated the Oilers in recent seasons, winning seven of eight, 12 of 14 and 17 of the last 20 meetings between the clubs. Anaheim, which is 3-0-1 against the Oilers this season, also has taken 12 of the past 15 encounters in Edmonton.
The Oilers are in spoiler mode once again after recently being eliminated from playoff contention for an eighth straight season. Edmonton was able to halt a three-game slide in Friday's 3-2 shootout win over the Phoenix Coyotes, a team fighting for the last playoff spot in the West.
Sam Gagner fueled Friday's road victory, netting the tying goal late in regulation and adding the lone goal of the shootout.
Ben Scrivens was called to the bench for an extra skater with 1:29 left in the third period, and Gagner popped home a loose puck after Jordan Eberle stripped Thomas Greiss behind the net with 40.4 showing.
Greiss was again helpless on the final chance in the fourth round of the game's final segment, lured to the left post by Gagner's several quick stick fakes before watching the puck slide past him at the right post. "I thought we played well on this trip and it's nice to get rewarded there," said Gagner.
The win allowed Edmonton to finish a three-game road trip with a 1-2-0 record. The Oilers will begin a season-ending four-game homestand on Sunday.
Justin Schultz added an early score and Scrivens made 24 stops in regulation for the Oilers.
04/06 11:59:44 ET
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