Ducks-Kings, Freeway Faceoff Part III Tonight at Honda Center

Anaheim, CA – Act three of the annual Freeway Faceoff starts tonight at Honda Center. The Anaheim Ducks (25-8-5) and the Los Angeles Kings (22-13-3) meet up as the Kings try to close the door on the Ducks’ Pacific Division lead. The first two meeting were split with the Ducks winning the first game, 7-4, and the Kings winning the more recent game, 5-2. The Kings are coming off of a schooling of the young Edmonton Oilers last night, while the Ducks are coming off the three game set with the Dallas Stars, taking two of the three.

Apr 4, 2013; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Kings center  Jeff Carter(77) shoots the puck past Minnesota Wild goalie Niklas Backstrom (32) at the Staples Center. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Conn Smythe Winner Jonathan Quick was the main reason why the Kings made such an incredible run to the Stanley Cup last season. He put up insane numbers and won numerous low scoring games. However, it can be very hard to return to that form after such an amazing season. Quick is proof of that. After posting a sub-2.00 GAA last year, his GAA has risen to 2.49. Still, not bad, but not as good. If you expected him to continue that level of play, you might need some psychiatric help. He’s still a very good goaltender, though. His backup, however, has been stellar when given the chance. It’s been well documented, Jonathan Bernier‘s young career so far. He’s been called one of the top young goaltending prospects in the world. He’s been part of numerous trade rumors, yet somehow has remained in Los Angeles. He has posted 2011-Jonathan Quick-like numbers. Almost exactly the same as Quick’s numbers last year. Bernier has posted a 1.77 GAA and a .927 SV % in 12 games.

The Kings have been one of the hotter teams in the league as of late. The reason? It might all be because of Jeff Carter. The former Flyer/Blue Jacket has really shined in Los Angeles this year. He is currently 4th in the league in goals (22), trailing only Steven Stamkos, Alex Ovechkin and John Tavares. and has scored a goal in four straight games. He has one of the best wrist shots in the league, but he has been known to be fairly inaccurate at times. Another star, Anze Kopitar, has been phenomenal. He leads the team in assists (24) and points (34). He is also second on the team in plus/minus (+16). Justin Williams has also continued to be a solid offensive weapon for the Kings. The two-time 30-goal scorer with the Carolina Hurricanes in the mid-2000s, has regained his form with the Kings the past couple years after having some major injury problems from 2007-2010. He currently has 10 G and 18 A for 28 P with a plus/minus of +18. He ranks tied for 3rd in goals with Kopitar, tied for 2nd in assists with Slava Voynov, 2nd in points and 1st in plus/minus.

Veterans Dustin Brown and Mike Richards are two of the best hard-working, two-way forwards in the entire league. They both play in any situation and rarely get outworked. I’ve been a very big Richards fan since he first came up with the Flyers. Power forward Dustin Penner is currently on IR with a lower body injury. Jarret Stoll continues to be a pest to every team he plays. He is one of the best faceoff guys in the league. Of course, the Kings have one very tough guy who will take on anyone in youngster Jordan Nolan. On the blue line, the Kings have newly acquired Robyn Regehr to help settle things down in front of Quick. They also acquired Keaton Ellerby earlier on in the season to do the same thing. Both were brought in to help in the absence of Willie Mitchell and Matt Greene who are on IR. Voynov, as I stated earlier, is having a fantastic season. The offensive defenseman has registered 5 G and 18 A for 23 P. Another young offensive defenseman having a good season is 24-year-old Jake Muzzin who has 6 G and 8 A for 14 P. Of course I don’t need to say much about the best defenseman among the Kings’ group, Drew Doughty. He isn’t one of the best defenseman in the league and the world for no reason. Rob Scuderi and Alec Martinez round out the defensive corps for the Kings.

A big storyline for the Kings last season was their lack of scoring. They finished the regular season ranked 29th in the league in scoring with 2.29 GPG. Well, this season they’re ranked 7th in the league in scoring with 2.90 GPG, right below the Ducks who are 6th in the league in scoring with 2.95 GPG. The Kings are also 7th in the league in goals allowed per game at 2.39 GA/G. That number doesn’t look nearly as good as it was last season when they ranked 2nd in the league in GA/G at 2.07. Along with the Ducks, the Kings are also in the top ten in 5-on-5 goals for/goals against, 3rd (1.34) and 6th (1.27) respectively. The Kings’ powerplay is also improved, just like the offense. Last year they were a middle of the road unit, this season they are slightly better this year. They are scoring at 19.6% (11th) this year, up from 17.0% (17th) last year. Meanwhile, the Kings are struggling on the penalty kill. Last season they killed off penalties at a rate of 87.0% (4th) and this season they are killing off penalties at a rate of 81.6% (16th).

April 3, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Anaheim Ducks center Andrew Cogliano (7) moves the puck against the defense of Dallas Stars center Cody Eakin (20) during the first period at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Ducks looked very good in the first two games against the Stars in their three-game series. Then they fell apart a bit in the third game. They tied the game at one, but then just completely lost their game. Dallas capitalized and took advantage of having the better game. Andrew Cogliano scored yet again in that third game as he continues to have a very good offensive season. He is currently tied with Corey Perry for second on the team in goals (12). Cogliano now has 2 points in the last 2 games and Perry now has 6 points in the last 8 games.Bobby Ryan also is hot of late with 3 points in the last 3 games. Defensemen Cam Fowler and Sheldon Souray are also experiencing some nice play lately with both of them contributing offensively. With Jonas Hiller apparently suffering from an illness, I think Viktor Fasth will get the nod again. Fasth is also playing very well in his last three games with a record of 2-1-0 and a 1.67 GAA and a .934 SV %. It is still uncertain at this point whether or not captain Ryan Getzlaf will be playing tonight. He’s arguably the most valuable player to this team, so I don’t think it would be a bad thing to have him sit until he’s completely healthy. That might not be easy for Getzy to do, but I think it will be better for the team in the end for him to get completely healthy.

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Tags: Alec Martinez Alex Ovechkin Anaheim Ducks Andrew Cogliano Anze Kopitar Bobby Ryan Cam Fowler Corey Perry Dallas Stars Drew Doughty Dustin Brown Dustin Penner Edmonton Oilers Honda Center Jake Muzzin Jarret Stoll Jeff Carter John Tavares Jonas Hiller Jonathan Bernier Jonathan Quick Jordan Nolan Justin Williams Keaton Ellerby Los Angeles Kings Matt Greene Mike Richards NHL Playoff Push Rob Scuderi Robyn Regehr Ryan Getzlaf Sheldon Souray Slava Voynov Steven Stamkos Viktor Fasth Willie Mitchell

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