Ducks, Canadiens meet in search of improved defense

The Anaheim Ducks are playing their best hockey since mid-November and they will try to keep it going when they open a four-game road trip against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.The Ducks

Ducks, Canadiens meet in search of improved defense

The Anaheim Ducks are playing their best hockey since mid-November and they will try to keep it going when they open a four-game road trip against the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday night.

The Ducks are coming off a 5-3 loss to the visiting Edmonton Oilers on Friday, but they are 3-1-1 after heading into the All-Star break with points in four consecutive games.

“We’ve been on a pretty good run here in the last four or five games,” Ducks forward Ryan Strome said. “We just have to keep building and not get frustrated by (Friday’s) result.”

Strome scored twice against the Oilers and has three goals in the past three games.

“I thought it was Ryan Strome’s best game in a long time,” Ducks coach Greg Cronin said after the loss to the Oilers.

Strome is back on pace to match last season’s 15-goal total, his first season in Anaheim. His career best of 21 came one season earlier with the New York Rangers.

“Hockey is a funny game; you get a little confidence and the net looks a little bigger,” Strome said.

Anaheim forward Adam Henrique had two assists against Edmonton to stretch his point streak to seven games (four goals, seven assists), which ties Mason McTavish for the longest point streak on the team this season.

McTavish returned to practice on Sunday after missing the Edmonton game with an upper-body injury.

Anaheim goalie John Gibson also practiced after leaving the Edmonton game after the second period with cramping issues.

The Ducks also welcomed back rookie defenseman Pavel Mintyukov, who has missed the past 11 games with a separated shoulder but appears ready to return against the Canadiens.

Montreal lost its second game in a row on Sunday, 7-2 against the visiting St. Louis Blues.

It was a costly game in terms of personnel.

Kaiden Guhle was hit hard into the boards late in the game by Marco Scandella and the defenseman was slow to exit the ice. Guhle is the second-highest scoring defenseman for Montreal with 12 points (four goals, eight assists).

“Just scenario-wise, what was it, 6-2 at that point?” Canadiens defenseman Mike Matheson said. “With a minute and some left, does this guy really need to drive him into the boards like that? I don’t know.”

Another defenseman, Jordan Harris, departed in the opening minutes after another hard check against the boards.

During the 3-2 loss to the Dallas Stars on Saturday, Montreal left wing Rafael Harvey-Pinard sustained a lower-body injury that will sideline him for four to six weeks.

“You’ve just got to keep going,” Canadiens defenseman Jayden Struble said. “Tomorrow’s a new day.”

Guhle was among the goal scorers when the Canadiens visited Anaheim on Nov. 22 and came away with a 4-3 victory.

Teammate Alex Newhook scored twice in the game and then sustained a high ankle sprain eight days later against the Florida Panthers and missed all of December and January before returning Saturday against the Stars.

Sam Montembeault made 30 saves in the win against Anaheim earlier this season and will likely start on Tuesday after Jake Allen was pegged for all seven goals in the loss to the Blues.

The win against Anaheim in November was Montembeault’s only victory in five career starts against the Ducks.