Season series: They've split the first four in the annual six-game Freeway Face-Off and will decide the series with a home-and-home on the final weekend. The Kings picked up an extra point in the last meeting on March 19 when Corey Perry won it for the Ducks in overtime.
Big story: . The Ducks are one of those teams on the good side of the cutoff line, and will clinch a permanent spot there with a win tonight or if they get a point and the Stars lose in regulation, overtime or a shootout. They can back in if the Stars lose in regulation.The Kings are in, having clinched a playoff spot Wednesday night with a 3-2 shootout win over the Coyotes. All that guarantees, though, is that they cannot finish any lower than eighth. The final culmination of one of the tightest conference races ever is that three points still separate fourth from eighth going into Thursday's action. The Ducks are one of those teams on the good side of the cutoff line, and will clinch a permanent spot there with a win tonight or if they get a point and the Stars lose in regulation, overtime or a shootout. They can back in if the Stars lose in regulation.
Kings: It took four tries to get there, but now the objective is to stay right where they are. The fourth seed guarantees them home-ice advantage in the first round, and a pair of wins would cement it, given the Kings' one-point edge over the Coyotes.
"It is a bit of a relief, but at the end of the day, that's not what we want," goalie Jonathan Quick said in the L.A. Daily News after the Kings clinched. "We want to get home ice here. That's what we're looking to do. We have it in our hands, I believe. It's us, Nash(ville) and these guys. Both have two games left. Right now we're ahead, so if we take care of business on our end we should get it."
Quick himself had a nice bounce-back after getting pulled Monday in a 6-1 loss to the Sharks, stopping 33 shots and improving his shootout record this season to a perfect 10-0. While there are no shootouts in the playoffs, coach Terry Murray believes his team can take away a lot from Wednesday's performance.
"There's an understanding now how you need to play against a real good hockey club," Murray said in the Daily News. "We finished the season with (two) wins (against Phoenix), it's good for your understanding of what you need to do."
Ducks: It was a nice show for the local fans, Perry not only scoring his 50th goal of the season, but doing so to complete a hat trick against the vaunted San Jose Sharks in a 6-2 rout on Wednesday, his third trifecta of the season. The goals gave him a nice edge over Steven Stamkos and Jarome Iginla for the Maurice Richard Trophy and probably improved his standing for the Hart as well. Still, it's the win that matters, not just for the standings, but for the message it might send to a potential first-round opponent.
"I've said all along that getting to the playoffs is more important than winning an award," Perry told the Times.
To that end, the scores have been plentiful and timely, 19 of them coming in the last 14 games, making Perry the first Duck to reach the 50-goal plateau since Teemu Selanne did it in 1997-98.
"We have two games left and he could score 10 more points," Selanne said in the Times. "He gets those octopus arms going, it's amazing."
Who's hot: Kyle Clifford doesn't score a lot, but the second-period goal he scored Wednesday tied the game. Jarret Stoll became the sixth Kings player to score 20 goals this season. The last time the Kings had that many was their Stanley Cup Final year of 1992-93. … Perry has 14 goals and 22 points during his 10-game scoring streak, during which he's plus-11. He's tied with Nashville's Sergei Kostitsyn for the longest active run. Bobby Ryan has a four-game points streak and 11 points in his last eight. The first of his three assists on Wednesday marked his 200th NHL point. Defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky added an assist Wednesday to add to a five-game points streak and, with 67 points, opened up a five-point edge over Detroit's Nicklas Lidstrom for the scoring lead among blueliners.
Injury report: Justin Williams has been accelerating his recovery from a dislocated shoulder that has kept him out of the last seven games. Murray has indicated that if all goes well, Williams may be available for the first round of the playoffs. … The Ducks enter the final weekend with a clean bill of health.
Stat pack: Quick is 22-7 lifetime in the shootout. … The Kings have scored only nine goals in five games without Anze Kopitar, and their power play is 0-for-12 in that span. … In addition to Perry and Selanne, Paul Kariya is the other 50-goal scorer for the Ducks all-time, getting his in 1995-96. Perry's 97 points are also the most since Selanne and Kariya tallied 107 and 101 points respectively in 1997-98.
Puck drop: "We've got a lot of character in the locker room. We noticed that a little earlier in the season, when we went through a couple slumps and found ourselves out of the top eight. We went and won some big games on the road, in some tough arenas, and these guys continued to compete, and it’s a pleasure being in net for them." -- Quick on the Kings' resiliency en route to their second consecutive playoff berth