There’s really not much that needs to be said about tonight’s game. Ducks fans know the Kings and Kings fans know the Ducks; there’s really not much mystery when the opposing team is an hour or two away.
But in case you’ve missed it, here’s the basic rundown: The Kings are off to an amazing start this season led by the play of Anze Kopitar, who is becoming a superstar in the league. Kopitar was leading the league in scoring for much of the season and is only three points away from the top coming into tonight’s game. Part of Kopitar’s decrease in production is due to the injury to Ryan Smyth, who was off to a blistering start himself before suffering an upper-body injury.
On the defensive side of the puck, Drew Doughty has become the player the Kings hoped he would be, playing so well that he’s garnered serious attention from Team Canada’s Olympic personnel. He can very easily be the seventh defenseman on the Olympic squad, and I personally think he should be. Mark my words: Drew Doughty will be every bit of an offensive force as Scott Niedermayer has been in his career.
OK but enough of this Kings love-fest. I hate the Kings, and honestly think they’ve been lucky early. Jonathan Quick is a decent goaltender but not playoff worthy. I picked the Kings to finish 6th in the Western Conference this season, but that seems ambitious now considering how they’ve played with an injury to a star player like Smyth.
The Ducks should be able to beat the Kings, especially if they continue to play the way they have been on this homestand and even a few games prior to it. The starting goalie for the Ducks will be a mystery as J.S. Giguere has started the last few and finally lost Sunday, albeit in overtime, but I hope he stays in goal. Jiggy has played awesome lately and there’s no reason to make a change, especially with back-to-back road games coming up. Jonas Hiller will have his chance to win back the starting role in the near future, but keep Jiggy in while he’s hot.
Here’s what the Ducks strategy should be: HIT, HIT, HIT. The Kings are young and inexperienced, and do not handle physical play very well. They are a highly skilled team, but when they play against a rough team (i.e. the Flyers), they are unable to respond and can be exploited on the fore-check.
Other than that, this should be a fun, high-scoring game. As always, expect a fight between George Parros and Frankenstein (AKA Raitis Ivanans), or other willing combatants. It will be high-tempo, but the Ducks need to be physical to have success.
Same lines as last game:
Bobby Ryan - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Evgeny Artyukhin - Saku Koivu - Teemu Selanne
Petteri Nokelainen - Todd Marchant - Matt Beleskey
George Parros - MacGregor Sharp - Mike Brown
From Mike G. Morreale at NHL.com:
KINGS (15-10-2) at DUCKS (10-11-4)
Last 10 – Los Angeles 5-5-0; Anaheim 4-4-2
Season series – The Pacific Division rivals will meet for the first time this season. The Ducks are 1-3-2 within the division and currently fifth with 24 points — six behind fourth-place Phoenix. The Kings are second in the division with 32 points — eight behind first-place San Jose. The teams not only split the six-game season series in 2008-09 but scored 15 goals apiece.
Big Story –The Ducks will close out a seven-game homestand against the Kings before traveling to Dallas and Minnesota on Thursday and Friday. The club is 4-1-1 at Honda Center during its recent stretch — 8-7-1 overall — and is 13th in the Western Conference. Randy Carlyle’s club has won six of its last eight at home (6-1-1) and wing Corey Perry has points in 13 straight home games, registering 6 goals and 18 points over that stretch.
Kings – The Kings, in the midst of a stretch in which they play 13 games in 23 days, received some good news on Sunday when Ryan Smythwas back on the ice skating with the club for the first time since suffering an upper-body injury on Nov. 16 at Florida. The Kings’ top line has struggled a bit with Smyth on the shelf, connecting for just one goal in five games. In Smyth’s absence, Anze Kopitar has centered for Alexander Frolov and Justin Williams. Smyth, who anticipates a mid-December return, remains the Kings’ second-leading scorer with 23 points in 22 games.
“This is a critical time for us,” Kings coach Terry Murray said. “From this time forward until the Christmas break. We have some big games at home. A lot of stuff is going to happen here in a short period of time, so we have to bring our ‘A’ game.”
Ducks – Goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguerehas gone 3-0-1 in his last four games with a 1.71 goals-against average and .944 save percentage. For the season, Giguere, who missed six games with a groin strain earlier this month, is 3-3-3 with a 2.67 GAA and .915 save percentage.
Who’s Hot –Perry is riding an 18-game point scoring streak (nine goals, 24 points) that matches the longest in the NHL since Phil Kessel put together an 18-game scoring streak 14 goals, 28 points) with the Boston Bruins from Nov. 13 through Dec. 21, 2008. Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby was the last player to put together a scoring streak longer than 18 games, reaching 19 from Oct. 6 through Nov. 17, 2007 (11 goals, 30 points).
Injury Report – The Ducks are without forwards Kyle Calder (eye), Ryan Carter (foot) and Joffrey Lupul (back spasms). The Kings are without forwards Ryan Smyth (upper body) and Andrei Loktionov(shoulder surgery). Defenseman Rob Scuderi, who has missed six games with a lower-body injury, is possible against the Ducks.
Stat Pack – Anaheim’s specialty teams has done an admirable job of late. The club has scored a power-play goal in three straight games, going 5-for-10 and has also connected for six goals with the man advantage in their last eight contests (12-for-31). The Ducks have not allowed a power-play goal in four straight (15-for-15) and have killed 16 straight since the third period of the team’s 3-2 setback to San Jose on Nov. 21.
Puck Drop – The Ducks are in dire need of points right now and need someone other than Perry, Ryan Getzlaf (28 points), Teemu Selanne (20 points) and Bobby Ryan(18 points) to contribute offensively. … Kopitar ranks third in the NHL in scoring with 33 points but he hasn’t registered a goal in nine straight games.