NHL

Predators-Ducks Preview

The Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators are hoping they've put some recent struggles behind them, but that's about to change for one of them Sunday night.

The Ducks look to build on a gritty victory and continue their success against the Predators in a matchup of teams vying for the Presidents' Trophy.

Anaheim (43-20-7) snapped a three-game slide with Friday's 2-1 win at Minnesota, improving to 27-1-7 in one-goal games this season.

"Blocking shots. That's how you've got to win games, now at the end and in the playoffs. Winning the board battles. The one-on-one battles. Make sure you come out with the puck," defenseman Francois Beauchemin said after setting a career high with his ninth goal Friday. "Things like that. Those are details we need to do if we want to be a championship team."

The Predators (43-20-7) are well-versed in those areas, and it paid off in a 2-1 win at Los Angeles on Saturday. They blocked 18 shots while Craig Smith and Viktor Stalberg scored 66 seconds apart in the third period.

Stalberg's shot was deflected in, giving Nashville a bit of luck after dropping seven of its previous eight games, with six of those defeats coming by one or two goals.

"I thought that was one of our better defensive games in a long time," said Pekka Rinne, who had 23 saves. "We got lucky with Stalberg's goal, and you need those. You need those lucky bounces."

The Predators rarely get them against the Ducks, who have won seven of the past eight meetings. They've won both matchups this season, scoring the first four goals in a 5-2 victory at Nashville on Feb. 5.

"They always play hard against us," Beauchemin said. "It's going to be a physical matchup. That's all I expect; another one-goal game."

Nashville and Anaheim are among seven teams separated by three points in the race for the best record in the NHL.

Corey Perry has 22 points in his last 19 meetings with the Predators, including eight in six playoff games. The right wing has also scored four goals in the past five matchups, netting one in each of the two this season.

He may be looking forward to this one since he has one goal in six games - his only point in that stretch.

Ryan Getzlaf has 10 points in five games versus the Predators, but has been struggling lately. The captain has two goals in six games, both coming in Wednesday's 6-3 loss at Calgary.

Left wing Matt Beleskey returned to Anaheim's lineup Friday after an upper-body injury kept his 21 goals out of the previous 12 games. He joined Perry and Getzlaf on the top line.

It's unclear if Nashville will start Rinne for a sixth straight game, but he's allowed just three goals on 72 shots over the past three. He's only made one start on back-to-back days this season - stopping 26 shots in a 3-2 win over St. Louis on Dec. 30.

Rinne is 1-2-2 with a 3.13 goals-against average in his last five games against Anaheim, getting pulled once. That's still better than Carter Hutton's 3.45 GAA in a pair of losses.

Smith has eight goals and five assists in his last 15 games overall and four and one in six visits to Anaheim.

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