The Anaheim Ducks are getting healthier and building momentum with the playoffs approaching. The Los Angeles Kings are showing they won't be pushovers against in-state rivals that are postseason-bound.
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Coming off a nearly one-week break, the Ducks head to Staples Center to meet the lowly Kings, who will play their final game of 2007-08.
Anaheim (45-27-8) has gone 18-5-1 after a season-high six-game losing streak from Jan. 20-Feb. 2. The Ducks have two regular-season games left to prepare for the playoffs and will likely have home-ice advantage in the first round.
"If we can get home ice, that's a big a bonus for us," Ducks defenseman Mathieu Schneider said.
But Anaheim hasn't played since a 3-2 shootout win on Sunday over Dallas, its likely quarterfinal opponent. A contest with the Western Conference-worst Kings (32-42-7) could be a good opportunity for the Ducks to get back into a flow, having gone 5-2-0 against them this season.
Anaheim, however, is 1-2-0 at Staples Center, converting just one of its 16 power-play chances. And Los Angeles is coming off a win over another California rival headed to postseason play, beating San Jose 4-2 on Thursday night to hand the Sharks their first regulation loss in 21 games.
The Ducks' late-season break could work to their advantage, giving banged-up players a chance to rest before the increased intensity of a playoff series.
Ryan Getzlaf, Anaheim's leading scorer, returned against the Stars after being out three games with a sore shoulder, and assisted on both of Schneider's goals. Getzlaf, having a career season, has four goals and two assists in his last four games against the Kings. The third-year center also has 23 goals and 56 assists in 75 games this season.
Jean-Sebastien Giguere returned against Dallas as well, making 23 saves after missing three straight games with back spasms. Giguere is 9-1-1 with a 1.52 goals-against average in his last 11 games.
Defenseman Chris Pronger will finish his eight-game suspension for intentionally stepping on the leg of Vancouver's Ryan Kesler. The 2000 MVP is scheduled to return for the regular-season finale on Sunday against Phoenix.
The Kings, meanwhile, will finish last in their division for the first time since 1998-99 and seventh time in franchise history.
Los Angeles also is tied with Tampa Bay in the race to avoid finishing with the league's worst record. Both teams have 71 points and play their season finale on Saturday, with the Lightning visiting Atlanta. The only season in which the Kings had the fewest points was 1969-70, when they had 38.
But Los Angeles is showing some fight down the stretch, winning two of its last three at home.
Leading scorer Anze Kopitar scored twice in the final 5:38 against San Jose. He has three goals and seven assists in six career games against the Ducks in Los Angeles, and the second-year center has 32 goals and 44 assists in 81 games this season.
Los Angeles forward Alexander Frolov has three goals and three assists in a six-game point streak at home against the reigning Stanley Cup champions.
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