The Anaheim Ducks were able to improve the best record in the NHL despite being without their points leader.
They might not need him Tuesday night either as they begin a four-game trip against the struggling Florida Panthers, who are trying to avoid their 10th straight defeat.
Anaheim (15-3-1) has continued its strong start by winning eight of nine games, the only loss coming in a shootout at Boston on Oct. 31. The Ducks' 31 points are one more than they recorded through their first 19 contests in 2006-07, when they won their only Stanley Cup.
"It's surprising, but it's a nice surprise," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "The way our training camp ended, with us losing the last three games - then losing to Colorado 6-1 in the opener - boy, I wouldn't have thought that we would have put this kind of string together. But then they started to compete, started playing for each other and started battling for jobs."
Ryan Getzlaf, who has nine points in his last four games and a team-best 22 on the season, missed Sunday's 3-1 victory over Vancouver with an upper-body injury. Getzlaf, who has two goals and three assists in his last three matchups with Florida, is uncertain for Tuesday.
"When you're missing the second-leading scorer in the league, one of the best players in the world - and your captain - you're always going to miss him," Boudreau said. "But I thought we did a great job of battling. The team wanted to show that we can survive injuries because we've got good depth. It gave other guys a chance to play, and they stepped up."
Goaltender Jonas Hiller was also out due to an illness, though a team spokesman said he was available to play. Rookie Frederik Andersen made 35 saves to improve to 6-0-0 with a 1.41 goals-against average.
Hiller is undefeated in three starts against Florida (3-11-4) with two shutouts.
Four of the Panthers' nine consecutive losses have come in overtime or a shootout. Opponents are 6 for 23 on the power play during the slide (26.1 percent).
Florida surrendered the decisive goal on a 5-on-3 disadvantage in a 4-3 road loss to the New York Rangers on Sunday. Brian Campbell's first two goals of the season were among the few bright spots for the Panthers.
Interim coach Peter Horachek hasn't provided a quick fix, losing both games since taking over for the fired Kevin Dineen last week.
"You are not going to win games if you turn pucks over," Horachek said after the Panthers committed 10 giveaways Sunday, one shy of a season high. "We are not going to get better until we decide we are going to manage the puck better. These are unforced errors. You can't win hockey games that way."
Florida last lost 10 in a row March 22-April 8, 2011. A 13-game skid in 1997-98 is the longest in team history. The Panthers are also in danger of losing six straight at home for the first time since Dec. 22, 2007-Jan. 13, 2008.
Anaheim's Corey Perry has eight points over his last five games as well as eight in his last five against the Panthers.
The Ducks have won five of the last six meetings, including three shutouts.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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