The Anaheim Ducks and Dallas Stars carried their longest winning streaks of the season into December, but each delivered unforeseen duds last weekend, leaving their coaches careful not to grow too optimistic heading into their third matchup of the season Wednesday at Honda Center in Anaheim.
The Ducks (16-11-5) had won six of seven games to move into the top three in the Pacific Division, but played uninspired in a 4-1 loss to the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Friday. Anaheim then took on the New Jersey Devils, the last place team in the Eastern Conference, and needed to rally from three deficits before winning 6-5 in a shootout Sunday.
"It takes 60 minutes, and sometimes 65-plus, to win a hockey game and get two points," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told the Orange County Register after practice Monday. "That's really the way we try to approach it, because you're not going to be perfect every night. You're going to have your peaks and valleys. You're going to have some good games, where you think things are going well, and the next game can really be a nightmare."
The Stars (16-11-3) had won a season-high four straight games before losing 4-2 against the Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday to open a four-game road trip. Dallas didn't come out with the pace and determination that was evident during the first three games of the winning streak.
"I'm a little concerned right now, just because our energy and our emotion the last two games hasn't been what it was there," Dallas coach Jim Montgomery told reporters after the loss to Vegas. "We were consistently playing with energy, emotion, and a lot of competitiveness, which comes with those two qualities, and the last two games we haven't had it."
The Stars have already defeated the Ducks twice this season in Dallas 12 days apart in October.
The Stars erased a 3-0 deficit in a 5-3 victory Oct. 13, the only regulation loss through the first seven games of the season for the Ducks.
Dallas scored four second-period goals in the first win against Anaheim, and the Stars came back with three in the middle period in the second meeting with Anaheim -- a 5-2 win.
Anaheim goaltender John Gibson started both games against Dallas and will likely be the starter against Wednesday after coming on in relief against the Devils after Ryan Miller sustained a knee injury at 7:13 of the third period.
Miller, who was trying for his 375th NHL win, which would have moved him past John Vanbiesbrouck as the winningest U.S.-born goalie in NHL history, is expected to be sidelined for about six weeks. The Ducks claimed Chad Johnson off waivers Tuesday and he'll likely be Gibson's backup.
Ben Bishop is expected to make his second start in goal against the Ducks this season.
Anaheim forward Ryan Getzlaf needs one point to become the second player for Anaheim to record 900 career points -- all with the Ducks.
Jakob Silfverberg will try to set a career high by scoring a goal in four straight games.