Rickard Rakell is heating up and so are the Anaheim Ducks as they look for a third victory in four games when they host the struggling Arizona Coyotes on Sunday. Rakell has scored in four straight games - the second time in his career he’s done so - to increase his team-leading goal total to 12 as Anaheim continues its climb up the playoff position ladder in the Western Conference.
Some of Rakell’s success can be traced to linemate and captain Ryan Getzlaf, who returned strong from missing 19 games with a facial injury and has 11 points in his past eight contests. Arizona had won two of its previous three games before Thursday’s 7-4 loss to Toronto and has an NHL-worst 23 points while allowing a league-most 3.5 goals per game. “I‘m running out of words to say what the problem is,” the Coyotes’ Jordan Martinook told reporters. “We’re such a fragile group when something bad happens to us.” Anaheim claimed the first of four 2017-18 meetings by opening the season with a 5-4 victory Oct. 5 and has won six of the last seven encounters, including four straight at home.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, FSN Arizona, FSN West (Anaheim)
ABOUT THE COYOTES (9-26-5): Clayton Keller boasts team bests of 13 goals and 18 assists as his 31 points is third among NHL rookies, but his minus-18 rating is the worst of all Calder Trophy candidates. Rookie Christian Fischer is next with 10 goals, including three in his last five games, and his four power-play goals are tied for the team lead with Oliver Ekman-Larsson. Derek Stepan (eight goals, 23 points) has three goals and one assist in his last five games and owns an even rating during that span after he was a minus-16 in his first 35 contests this season.
ABOUT THE DUCKS (17-14-8): Ryan Kesler, who is set to play his 900th game Sunday, is a minus-3 in two games since making his season debut following offseason hip surgery, but showed why he is among the toughest two-way centers in the game when he fought Matthew Tkachuk on Friday. “That’s the type of player (he is),” coach Randy Carlyle told reporters. “He’s an all-business type of player. He takes no prisoners and he plays the game that way. And that’s why he’s been a perennial Selke finalist. He’s been a guy that’s always on the other team’s radar as far as a hard guy to play against.” Cam Fowler has scored twice in the last three games, including his 50th career goal to join Francois Beauchemin (55) and Scott Niedermayer (60) as the only defenseman to reach that plateau with Anaheim.
1. Ducks RW Ondrej Kase (nine goals, 15 points in 26 contests) has matched his point total from his 53-game rookie season of 2016-17.
2. Ekman-Larsson is an NHL-worst minus-29 with teammates Keller, F Christian Dvorak (minus-18), F Brad Richardson (minus-17), D Alex Goligoski (minus-16) and Stepan also in the bottom 10 entering Saturday.
3. Anaheim RW Corey Perry (six goals, 22 points in 31 games) is expected to miss his ninth contest Sunday with a knee injury, but will accompany the team on its three-game trip through Western Canada that begins Tuesday in Vancouver.
PREDICTION: Ducks 3, Coyotes 2