The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are separated by 30 miles and are very familiar with each other thanks to several years of divisional matchups. Despite a shared history that includes the Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25, they have never played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
That is until now.
Fresh off becoming the fourth team in NHL history to come back from a 3-0 series deficit, the Kings are ready to forget about their run in the Western Conference First Round against the San Jose Sharks and focus on their Southern California rival.
"Until you play each other in the playoffs there is not really a rivalry created," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said in a conference call Thursday. "It's exactly what I think everybody wanted. You've got to get through your division before you can advance."
Sutter isn't the only person looking forward to this Western Conference Second Round series. When the Ducks played the Detroit Red Wings last year in Game 7 of the first round, a number of Kings players watched the game hoping for an all-California series.
"The regular season is one thing. We all know the playoffs are a totally different ballgame when it comes to physicality and how hard you're battling," forward Jarret Stoll said. "It's going to be a war, it's going to be a battle. It's going to be great for both fan bases to enjoy the series. It's never happened. It's exciting in that sense for the whole area of Los Angeles. I'm looking forward to it."
Game 1 is Saturday at Honda Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The Kings took some time to enjoy their 5-1 Game 7 win Wednesday, but with a day off Thursday it was officially time to focus on the next round of the playoffs.
"You put a little winning streak together and you kind of have that swagger. Every game is a new story. You've got to go out and play," Stoll said. "If we don't play our game, we'll get beat in Game 1. That's just the way it is. We're feeling good about our game right now but we've got to keep playing that way and keep building that confidence and see where it takes us."
No update was given regarding the status of defenseman Willie Mitchell, who missed Game 7 against San Jose with a lower-body injury. In the meantime, the Kings are looking forward to an intense battle against a rival located in their backyard.
"It's just the way it worked out this year," Sutter said. "We like coming home after games, we like using our facility, we like to sleep in our own beds, all those things. It's an advantage for both teams."