What might otherwise appear as a nondescript event — road game No. 31 and game No. 60 of 82 — is much more to the Ducks.
When they meet the Nashville Predators (25-23-10) on Saturday night at Bridgestone Arena, the difference between a win and a loss could leave a lingering effect — say, for three weeks.
In the final game before a near three-week-long Winter Olympics break, a victory would assure the Ducks (40-14-5) stay where they've spent most of the season — leading the Western Conference in points.
"Put all our eggs in one basket … then you take a deep breath and you've got 22 games left [for] the home stretch," said Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau.
The Ducks will be without veteran forward Teemu Selanne, 43. He didn't make the trip — simply to rest; he is healthy, a team spokesman said — and will depart Sunday for Russia for the Winter Games. After Saturday's game, the other six Ducks Olympians will board a flight to Atlanta, and then to Sochi. The rest of the team will launch some vacation time.
Center Nick Bonino (16 goals, 24 assists) has been sidelined because of a right wrist injury as the Ducks lost their last three games. Bonino made the trip to Nashville and expects to know after Saturday morning's skate whether he can play. He skated with the team Friday.
In an hourlong practice Thursday, Bonino said he tested "my comfort level … if I can play on faceoffs, play in the corners, take hits. It was a good day; we'll see what happens."
Despite talk about the Olympics zapping the Ducks' focus, defenseman Sami Vatanen of Finland and forward Jakob Silfverberg of Sweden said they didn't even know who their first opponents would be in Sochi.
"I haven't thought of that at all until yesterday, started thinking how it's going to be fun to go there," Vatanen said. "The only thing I know is we're going to play against Canada. I said to them, [Ducks' Canadian stars Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry], 'Keep your head up.' I'll run over them and laugh after."
Silfverberg said Sweden has a game against goalie Jonas Hiller of Switzerland.
"You get to be their enemies now," Silfverberg said of his teammate. "I hope I put one or two in on him … [and] put a smile on."
DUCKS AT NASHVILLE
When: 5 PST.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket. Radio: 830.
Etc.: The Ducks won at Nashville, 4-3, on Jan. 9.