Anaheim, Edmonton face the ‘vortex of death' this evening

All due respect to the Columbus Blue Jackets and Nashville Predators, but the game of the night as far as Western Conference playoff implications go is happening up in Edmonton.

The only regulation loss in the last seven games for the Anaheim Ducks was at home against the Edmonton Oilers last Friday, which was Edmonton's only win in their last five games. The Oil can overtake the Ducks in the conference standings with a regulation victory.

Sports Club Stats, an invaluable site for playoff junkies, gives the numeric justification for game-of-the-night status:

If the Oilers beat the Ducks, they have a 35.7 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they lose, those odds drop to 8.1 percent.

If the Ducks beat the Oilers, they have a 63.2 percent chance of making the playoffs. If they lose, it drops to 26.6.

Games don't get any bigger than this at the end of March. Which is why Craig MacTavish is talking about the "vortex of death."

We hear you: What in the name of dungeons and/or dragons is the "vortex of death"? Eric Duhatschek of the Globe & Mail explains:

Oilers coach Craig MacTavish - bless his soul - came up with a new way of talking up the day. Twice, he invoked what he called the "vortex of death" when discussing the task at hand - and how emotions can swing, even in a 24-hour period, from the disappointment of Sunday's loss to Minnesota to the optimism of potentially getting back into the race with a win over the Ducks.

"From our perspective, game day is a time to explore the potential you have as a team," said MacTavish. "It's time to focus on the optimistic things you hope to happen in the game. You get into that cycle - what I call the vortex of death - where you lose a game and you get so down and you come in the next day and it's tough to get out of bed the next morning.

"You're disappointed by the result, but you mind your way to the rink and you have a meeting and you start to get a little more confident in your team's ability to respond ....

"You wake up game day and the potential is limitless when you come to the rink."

So ... vortex of death, then.

The key to the game is going to be its start. Edmonton is 16-14-6 at home, tied with the Los Angeles Kings for the fewest home wins in the conference. They looked practically bored against the Minnesota Wild, which we imagine allows you to insert your Minnesota Wild joke here.

They need more than a fast start -- they need goals, on the board and early against Anaheim. Although it doesn't have to be as early as Dustin Penner (1:11) and Fernando Pisani (1:48) scored in their win against the Ducks last week.

Jonas Hiller should get the nod for the Ducks, but the big concern for Anaheim is in the opposing crease: They have to solve Dwayne Roloson more often. From Ducks Blog:

"We're going to get traffic in front of him," Ducks center Andrew Ebbett said after Tuesday's morning skate. "With 54 shots last game, we have to make sure he's not seeing as many pucks. You're going to be seeing at least one, sometimes even two guys right in front of his eyesight, especially when the puck goes back to the point. That's our game plan right from the opening faceoff."

The Ducks set a single-game franchise record with 54 shots on Roloson in Friday's 5-3 loss to Edmonton at Honda Center. Two goals from Ryan Getzlaf and one from Corey Perry marked the extent of the payoff.

"We have to have more people in front," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle said. "We had lots of shots, but Roloson saw too many pucks. We have to be inside. The new term is 'Take the goalie's eyes away.' I heard that the other day."

We picked the Ducks for the playoffs, and we're sticking to that. They're a dangerous postseason team for either the San Jose Sharks or Detroit Red Wings to face, especially as their health is improving.

But they have to get to the postseason first. Losing to the Edmonton Oilers tonight means having to regain momentum with the Vancouver Canucks and two games against the Sharks up next. That's about as likely as them winning tonight with the Flying V.

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