Ducks take on two of the NHL’s best as penalties mount – Orange County Register

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The road won’t get any easier for the Ducks this weekend as they travel to take on the Pacific Division’s top two teams, the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday and Vancouver Canucks on Sunday, following a sleepy sojourn in Seattle.

There, two games produced just two goals but the Ducks were prolific in an area they’d rather not have been, taking 15 minor penalties. They also allotted limited minutes for a pair of star players in the second outing.

Mason McTavish was dropped to the fourth line to begin Thursday’s loss against the Kraken, playing 10:35 across 15 shifts, all of which came at even strength. Trevor Zegras, who took a minor and a double-minor penalty, did not see the ice after the latter, sitting for the final 11:31 of the contest after logging 11:05 between five-on-five and power-play situations (14 shifts overall).

Coach Greg Cronin said the demotion of McTavish “balanced the lines out” (though McTavish also lost his power-play time) and said the absence of Zegras from more than half the third period was not punitive either. Though no one sat out as much as Zegras, the Ducks’ leading scorer last season, defenseman William Lagesson languished nearly as long, partially because of his five-minute fighting penalty in the middle of the third period, and forward Ben Meyers watched the final 7:12 of the game.

“Neither [McTavish nor Zegras] kills penalties,” said Cronin, whose club gave up three power-play goals on a staggering 10 opportunities Thursday. “‘Z’ took a four-minute penalty and we kept taking them one after another, so several guys never saw the ice.”

The Ducks approached the franchise record for power-plays faced in a single game, 13, which was set in a 4-3 victory over Calgary in 2006. Discipline will need to be a focus against the Oilers, their second-ranked power play and a cast of stars that coach Kris Knoblauch wouldn’t dream of benching.

They made relatively light work of the Kings in a 4-1 win on Thursday, winning the season series against the same team they’ve knocked out of two straight postseasons (they’ve won all three meetings against the Ducks in two blowouts and a come-from-behind victory). Connor McDavid had two assists to close within two points of the NHL scoring lead and five assists of 100 for the season.

There have been only 13 campaigns of 100 assists or more in NHL history. The feat was accomplished by the holy trinity of Wayne Gretzky (11 times), Mario Lemieux and Bobby Orr, who is McDavid’s mentor. McDavid seemed destined to cross that threshold and become the first player to do so since Gretzky did with the Kings in 1991.

McDavid also joined Gretzky as one of just seven players to record three straight 120-point seasons (Lemieux, Marcel Dionne, Guy Lafleur, Phil Esposito and Paul Coffey are the other five) and the first since The Great One did so between 1990 and 1992.

McDavid has compiled 55 points in 26 games since the All-Star break, 16 more than any other skater. The three players with 39 points across that span are fellow Art Ross Trophy aspirants Nathan MacKinnon and Nikita Kucherov, as well as McDavid’s teammate and former scoring champion Leon Draisaitl.

While it might not have the array of weapons Edmonton does – the Oilers also boast a 50-goal scorer in Zach Hyman, a 100-point point producer last season in Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and, for good measure, 2011 MVP and former Duck Corey Perry – Vancouver has been roughly as potent in sum. The Canucks sit fifth in goals (252), one spot behind Edmonton, and of the top dozen teams in that category they’ve allowed the fewest goals (193).

They’ve been without star goalie Thatcher Demko (knee) and marquee trade acquisition Elias Lindholm (undisclosed). They’ve lost their past two games to two playoff-bound opponents, the Kings and Dallas Stars. Though they hold a comfortable six-point lead on the Oilers, the Stars vaulted over them for the top spot in the Western Conference.

Though the Ducks appear to be lightyears from such competitiveness, they hope they can reach that level in the near future thanks to a stockpile of young talent in the organization. They further solidified their relationship with one prospect, winger Nico Myatovic, on Friday.

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