By Adam Brady
Over the course of an 82-game NHL season, certain games naturally take on more meaning than others. Tonight’s Ducks-Kings battle at Honda Center is one of those games, and it’s not just because it’s a clash between two bitter foes who ramped up their rivalry with an epic seven-game battle in last year’s playoffs.
As big a factor as any of that is the electricity that accompanies any Ducks-Kings game and promises to be in the building tonight, something several Ducks touched on after their morning skate.
|“Anytime the fans get into it and we can hear them, it’s always a big boost of energy for us. Also, we know there are always some Kings fans in the building, and we try to shut them down so they don’t have anything to cheer for.” |
“It’s a pretty electric atmosphere,” said Kyle Palmieri, who has played in a number of games between the rivals but missed the first two this season with injuries. “We bring out the best in each other, and that’s what you want in a hockey rivalry. It’s a big, physical man’s game, and I know the fans love to watch it. It’s a rivalry that we all love, and it always lives up to its hype.”
Ben Lovejoy experienced a tense rivalry during his time in Pittsburgh, anytime the Penguins took on the Washington Capitals. Since he arrived in Anaheim in February of 2013, he’s immersed himself in this rivalry and what the fans bring to it.
“Some games you have trouble getting up for. You do everything you can, but it’s human nature,” Lovejoy said. “You have no trouble when it’s this kind of game. The building is electric, and no matter how you’re feeling as a hockey player, you have your legs, you have your excitement level.
“The players and the fans actually feed off each other. Hopefully you can give them something to cheer about, and it makes playing that much easier and that much more fun.”
The rivalry between Anaheim and LA was given the tag “Freeway Faceoff” a few years ago, given the two teams’ proximity to one another. Partly because of that geographic familiarity, Anaheim and LA players frequently work out together in the offseason. With that, and the sense of brotherhood that prevails throughout the NHL, the Ducks and Kings combatants don’t necessarily harbor the animosity toward each other they display on the ice in what are always highly physical games.
But there’s no question when it comes to the fans: Ducks fans don’t like Kings fans – and the feeling is mutual. That hostility helps fuel the atmosphere in the building no matter where the two teams play – whether it’s Honda Center, Staples Center or in last year’s case, Dodger Stadium. That electricity, several Ducks acknowledged, feeds down to the men in the rink.
“Anytime the fans get into it and we can hear them, it’s always a big boost of energy for us,” said Francois Beauchemin, who has played in a staggering 55 Ducks-Kings game (including playoffs). “Also, we know there are always some Kings fans in the building, and we try to shut them down so they don’t have anything to cheer for.”
A similar scenario plays out whenever the Ducks face the Red Wings, a longtime rival of both the regular season and playoffs who doesn’t made a trip to Anaheim as often since a move to the Eastern Conference last season.
|“It makes such a difference when the crowd is going nuts, but it’s on us to give them things to cheer about. It’s a cycle, and one feeds off the other. Hopefully tonight we can have a great start, and that gets the crowd into it, which gets us going ever faster and even harder.” |
But last Monday night at Honda Center, when the Ducks had struggled for much of the game to generate offense, an Andrew Cogliano goal midway through the third period pulled Anaheim within one of Detroit. “You get one and you start feeling good,” Cogliano said that night, “the crowd gets into it and you get a couple more."
That energy helped propel the Ducks to two more goals in a space of 3 1/2 minutes, and they ultimately prevailed in the shootout.
“When the crowd is loud, it makes a big difference,” Cogliano said this morning. “For the players energy-wise, it’s an added element, for sure. It’s part of the advantage of being at home, just in the sense of how much the momentum can change based on the energy of the crowd.
"Especially when you get a big goal that gives the fans a chance to get going, that kind of thing gets the team going as well.”
Added Palmieri, “After Cogs’ goal, it kind of lit the atmosphere up, and we feed off that kind of energy.”
The Ducks are looking forward to getting that same inspiration tonight from a Friday night standing-room-only crowd that promises to be thunderous.
“It makes such a difference when the crowd is going nuts, Lovejoy says, “but it’s on us to give them things to cheer about. It’s a cycle, and one feeds off the other. Hopefully tonight we can have a great start, and that gets the crowd into it, which gets us going ever faster and even harder.”