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Kings for a Day

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks
More of this tonight, please.

It's Rivalry Week in Anaheim -- three straight games against hated opponents, all of which have a history of animosity and tooth-and-nail games with the Ducks.

Two nights ago it was the Red Wings -- a team the Ducks have faced in the postseason five times -- which the Ducks promptly trounced 4-0 at Honda Center. Tonight it's the Kings, a team the Ducks have never battled in the playoffs (the first time they both made it in the same year was last season), but one they have battled 107 times over the years. Sunday it's the Predators, a relatively fledgling rival that was born from a treacherous playoff series last year that Nashville took in six games. 

Both rivalries have something in common: No matter where the teams are in the standings it always feels like a playoff game. It's gratifying when the Ducks beat either of those teams. But I enjoy beating the Kings just a little bit more, mostly because of the geographic proximity of LA, meaning we run into their fans just a little more on an everyday basis than we do Wings fans. That's why last year, when the Ducks beat the Kings on back-to-back nights to leapfrog them into the fourth spot in the West, was so exhilarating.

Passing them this season is a little more remote of a possibility, since the Ducks currently trail the Kings by seven points in the standings with 11 games to go. But that doesn't make tonight any less intense, especially since the Ducks have lost four of the first five to LA this season, and Anaheim pretty much needs to win them all from here to the finish line to maintain its postseason hopes.

"It’s a playoff game for us, but playing the Kings, it’s a big rivalry, right?" said Luca Sbisa this morning. "Guys are going to be extra fired up and they’ll be fired up as well. It’s going to be pretty emotional and a fun game to watch.

"It’s going to be a physical, emotional hard-nosed game. The guys like games like this, and the fans do too."

Now whether Sbisa and Corey Perry will play in this game remains to be seen. Bruce Boudreau didn't seem optimistic when he stood in front of reporters this morning, despite the fact both Perry and Sbisa skated with the team. "They’re starting to skate in practice, but I don’t know whether they’ll be back tonight or Sunday," he said. "It looks sooner than later though and not another week. It looks like they’ll play before the San Jose game [Monday]."

Both remain gametime decisions, but with so few gametimes remaining, Boudreau said, "We don’t have the luxury of waiting for anything. If they’re able to play, they can play."

Perry took a few one-timers this morning and said the shoulder, which he injured last Saturday in Dallas, felt "alright." He added, "Each day it feels like it’s getting stronger, so that’s a positive sign. It’s a tough decision. You don’t like sitting out, but you don’t know how it’s going to feel taking a check or whatever. It’s a lot of hockey and a lot of banging and battling for position. It’s playoff hockey, so it’s going to be tough out there. We’ll see how it is."

"It’s tough. It’s been a long time since I missed a game, especially with the dogfight we’re in, to make a push for the playoffs the last 10 or 11 games. It’s definitely not fun watching. Riding the bike and watching on TV isn’t what you enjoy doing."

Asked about his status, Sbisa said, "We’ve done a lot of treatment the past few days. It’s feeling much better, but it’s a gametime decision. I don’t want to say I’ll be able to play and not be out there. We’ll see how it feels tonight.

"You’ve got to be mobile out there, and if you’re not, guys can just take you out. You’ve got to make sure you’re 100 percent because if you’re not, you’ve got guys like Nate Guenin. You don’t want to make a selfish decision and go out there for two or three shifts and then call it a game. If I play, I’ve got to be 100 percent."

Translation: Both of those guys are more likely to be in there Sunday.

Even without both of them on Wednesday, the Ducks looked very strong against the Red Wings, thanks in part to two goals by Kyle Palmieri. The 21-year-old skated with Getzlaf and Perry this morning, and figures to be on the top unit with at least Getzlaf this evening.

Palmieri wasn't even brought up to Anaheim until last Monday (in the wake of Perry's injury) and was leading the AHL with 32 goals. Boudreau was asked today about whether he'll be up here for the rest of the year.

"He’s the best scorer in that league, so you’ve got to weigh one versus the other," he said. "You’ve got to think about Anaheim first, but at the same time, do we know him well enough to know where we slot him next year? Every day you take it and see where it is. If he keeps doing what he did last game, he’s not going anywhere."


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