Ducks vs. Kings
KINGS (44-27-7) at DUCKS (38-31-9)
Last 10 --
Los Angeles 4-4-2; Anaheim 7-2-1
Season series --
The Kings won the first three meetings this season against their Southern California rivals by a combined 14-7, but the Ducks have taken the last two, including a 2-1 decision in a shootout this past Saturday night.
Big story --
The Ducks are looking for their second straight win over their Freeway Face-Off rivals as they hope to hang on to their fading playoff hopes. The Ducks can officially be eliminated from playoff contention with a loss or a Colorado win in Vancouver tonight. Los Angeles has clinched its first playoff berth since 2002, but it would still like to get the best seed possible. With a win Tuesday night, the Kings will jump into sixth in the Western Conference with three games remaining. While it's still mathematically possible that the Kings get a top-four seed, a more realistic goal would be to finish fifth. They are currently three points behind Nashville for that seed, but have two games in hand.
After losing three straight in regulation and going winless in four straight, the Kings have to be happy with how they have played over their last three games. Last week they beat Nashville, 2-0, and then whipped Vancouver, 8-3, before falling in a shootout to the Ducks, 2-1. They weren't thrilled with how they played offensively on Saturday, complaining that their passes weren't crisp and there were too many turnovers, but to allow only four goals over their last three games shows the Kings have been working on their defense. Jonathan Quick finished Saturday's game with 32 saves after sitting out two straight while rookie Jonathan Bernier impressed.
"He was sharp," coach Terry Murray said according to Rich Hammond of the L.A. Kings Insider. "He was real alert. He found a lot of pucks. There was a lot of traffic around our net. There were cycles going on. The (Saku) Koivu line played good, with the other line, (Corey) Perry and (Bobby) Ryan. They do a lot of good work, with holding onto the puck and taking it hard to the net. But he found the puck from the blue line, looking through traffic. He looks like he's back on top."
They have been playing better of late with four wins in their last five games and an 8-2-1 record since coming out of the Olympic break with five straight losses. However, that 0-4-1 stretch after the break doomed the Ducks, whose playoff hopes are on life support -- and the plug could be pulled Tuesday. They are six points behind Colorado for the eighth playoff spot and the Avalanche are in action Tuesday at Vancouver. The Ducks will officially be eliminated Tuesday if the Avs beat the Canucks. Anaheim stayed alive with its 2-1 shootout win over the Kings on Saturday. Koivu scored with 1:32 left in regulation to tie the game and then netted the only goal in the shootout.
"Now it feels a lot better, obviously, but we have a long way to go," Koivu told the Orange County Register after Saturday's game. "There's four games to go and we've got to win them all and get some help from other teams. At least we're making it exciting."
Who's hot --
Koivu has been on quite a ride lately. Friday night against Vancouver he forced overtime by scoring with 1:24 remaining in regulation. The Ducks lost that one in a shootout. But Koivu came back with another clutch performance Saturday against the Kings with his late goal and shootout winner. He has 5 goals and 4 assists over the last six games.
Injury report --
The Kings report no significant injuries. The Ducks, however, have two big ones. Ryan Getzlaf
(ankle) has missed the last five games while Jonas Hiller
(back spasms) has sat out the last four.
Stat pack --
The last time the Kings made the playoffs was 2002 when Jason Allison was their leading scorer with 74 points, Ziggy Palffy led the team with 32 goals and Felix Potvin was the No. 1 goalie with 31 wins and a 2.31 goals-against average. The Kings were the seventh seed and lost to Colorado in the first round.
Puck drop --
"We know how to play. It's not hard to understand. It's just that the young guys need to buy into it completely for us to be successful in the playoffs," Murray said according to L.A. Kings Insider Rich Hammond, after he was disappointed with his team's effort in Saturday's shootout loss to Anaheim.