The Playoffs don’t begin until the end of the month but that may come as news to the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings tonight. It’s the fourth and final game between the two teams in the regular season and you can bet the Kings aren’t about to let the Ducks come out on top.
Thus far this season’s Freeway Faceoff has been all about home ice advantage, as the Ducks have won twice at the Honda Center, and the Kings once at the Staples Center. Tonight Anaheim enters the proverbial Lion’s Den as they return to the Staples Center, where they last lost to the Kings 5-2.
The Ducks have already clinched a playoff spot and sit 9 points ahead of the Kings in the standings, making it likely that they will also clinch the Pacific Division title. However, the Ducks are coming off a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, who the Kings beat, (granted, in a shootout), the day after the Ducks’ loss.
Anyone who watched the Ducks/Avalanche game will tell you, it wasn’t pleasant. The good news however, is that the Ducks for the first in over a month finally got more than a day off after the Avalanche game. Coach Boudreau used those two days to practice with the team, who desperately need to clean up their game, after seeing lots of problems start to slip in the last few weeks. The Ducks may already be a playoff team, but they need to clean up their game if they want to actually do any damage in the playoffs.
The Kings have been almost a polar opposite story of the Ducks. They started the season cold, warmed up, got hot, and in many ways their game seems to be returning to the level that won them the Stanley Cup last year. The Ducks will have to be at their best to win tonight at Staples Center, but a win for the Ducks would be an enormous statement.
The Ducks are almost a lock at this point to win the Pacific Division Title, which also means they will be one of the top 3 seeds in the Western Conference. All that is great news as it results in home ice advantage in at least the first two rounds of the playoffs for the Ducks. Winning tonight would put the Pacific Division title further out of the Kings reach, (who currently are 2nd in the Division), and further securing home ice for the playoffs, something that the Freeway Faceoff thus far has proved to be advantageous.
With the playoffs less than a month away the Ducks and Kings both have an opportunity tonight to play a playoff intensity type of game. The Ducks, who have struggled in consistency as of late, will hopefully once again find their legs and become the dominant team they have been most of the season. Additionally the hope is they also put the Kings lower in the standings, hurting their chances for a higher seed in the playoffs, (although being an 8th seed didn’t affect them at all last year).
The Kings are still playing without Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell, but have shored up some of their defensive woes with their tradeline acquisition of Robyn Regehr. The Ducks are still without Nick Bonino, (who hopes to return late next week from a lower body injury), and Cam Fowler, who was injured early in Wednesday’s game against the Avalanche. It is expected that Jonathan Quick will start in net for the Kings, and Viktor Fasth for the Ducks.
Tonight’s matchup should be a good one, and for any Ducks fans attending, make sure to stop by the Honda Center and pick up some of these before making your way to L.A., (they’re free!).
Tonight’s game will be shown on the NHL Network, as well as KDOC for local Ducks fans at 8 PM. Go Ducks!