Ducks-Blue Jackets Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 30, 2011
The Columbus Blue Jackets have faced three straight backup goaltenders, but remain owners of the worst record in the NHL. That might be the perfect reason for the slumping Anaheim Ducks to give Dan Ellis a start with Jonas Hiller coming off a busy stretch in net. The Blue Jackets will try to win their second straight at Nationwide Arena on Sunday night when they open a home-heavy portion of their schedule with the first of four matchups against the Ducks in 2011-12. After getting three shots past Ty Conklin on Tuesday in a 4-1 home win over Detroit that snapped a franchise-worst 0-7-1 start, the Blue Jackets (1-9-1) fired a season-best 43 shots against Buffalo's Jhonas Enroth in Thursday's 4-2 road loss. On Saturday, Ray Emery made 27 saves against them in a 5-2 loss at Chicago. The time could be right for Anaheim to start Ellis. Hiller has made five consecutive starts - all in the last nine days - with the Ducks dropping four of those games including Saturday's 3-0 loss at Nashville. The Ducks, 8-2-1 in their last 11 visits to Columbus, play four more times in the next week as they complete a seven-game road trip. Ellis, who made 41 saves in his only start this season - a 3-2 victory at San Jose on Oct. 17 - is 5-0-1 with a 1.31 GAA in six starts against the Blue Jackets. Whoever is between the pipes would benefit from better production from the Ducks' power-play unit, which fell to 6 for 42 (14.3 percent) on the season after failing in one chance Saturday. Anaheim's power play ranked third in the NHL at 23.5 percent in 2010-11. The Blue Jackets' special teams are in worse shape, having converted 5 of 61 power plays and owning one of the league's worst penalty-kill percentages at 72.7. Columbus, though, stopped all five of the Blackhawks' power-play chances Saturday, when Allen York turned aside 33 shots in his first NHL start. However, he gave up two goals to Viktor Stalberg during a 1:58 stretch of the third period that essentially put the game away. "It's close to seven games we've been tied 2-2 at some part of the game,'' Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel said. "... but at the end of the day we made mistakes - two mistakes in the third period - and it cost us the hockey game.'' Steve Mason, coming off his first night off of the season, will likely return to net for Columbus, which plays five of its next six at home. Mason went 2-2-0 with a 2.93 goals-against average against Anaheim last season, losing the last two matchups between these clubs. The last time these teams met, the Ducks posted a 3-2 victory in Columbus on Jan. 25. Hiller made 35 saves in that contest - the last for both teams before the All-Star Game - but played just 83 minutes after the break due in part to an apparent bout of vertigo. Defenseman Francois Beauchemin might not be available for Anaheim after he was penalized Saturday for an illegal check to the head of Nashville's Mike Fisher. "We'll hear about it if they deem it is something we need to talk about," coach Randy Carlyle said.
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