By Kyle Shohara
Following last night’s disappointing home loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Ducks gathered at Honda Center for practice this afternoon. If there were any distractions leading up to yesterday’s game, they’ve come and gone as they prepare for two consecutive games against the LA Kings.
The first of two against their crosstown rivals begins tomorrow night at Honda Center. Then on Saturday, the scene shifts outdoors where they’ll go toe-to-toe at historic Dodger Stadium in front of 54,000 fans. With four points on the line and a chance to further distance themselves from the Kings in the standings, the Ducks talked about the importance of these next two games.
“We’re at a point in our season where we’ve lost two out of the last three, and now we’re getting to play the Kings twice,” said defenseman Ben Lovejoy. “We need to go in there and win tomorrow night, then win on Saturday to reestablish our confidence in our game.”
While a 15-point lead on paper sounds almost insurmountable, a rough stretch of games can alter the standings quickly in the highly competitive Western Conference. Ducks veteran Saku Koivu says they’ll need to be ready to face a team built for the playoffs.
“Even if you have a lead in the standings and you’re feeling comfortable, things can turn around real quickly here,” he said. “You want to get ready. You never know if you’re going to meet them in the playoffs. We have to prove to ourselves that we can compete against those guys on a consistent basis.”
Cam Fowler says consecutive games against LA will be another measuring stick for the Ducks.
“They’re an elite team in this league and someone we get to see a lot,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, we haven’t had the greatest success against them. It’ll be a good test for us, and we’ll be able to see where we’re at.
You know the type of game you’re going to get when you go up against those guys. Up and down their lineup are big, strong players who can really control the puck. They want to dictate the style of play with their physicality, but we feel we have the group to play that style of game.”
The Kings’ run to becoming the 2012 Stanley Cup champions was even more impressive because of where they were seeded when the postseason began. They became the first-ever eighth seed to win the Cup since the current playoff format was adopted in 1994. Head coach Bruce Boudreau says the veteran-led Kings are the Ducks’ toughest opponent, regardless of where they are in the standings.
“They know when they have to push the envelope,” he said. “Their record might not indicate it, points-wise, that they’re the best team we face, but I firmly believe they’re our toughest opposition. There are a lot of other great teams, don’t get me wrong, but those guys are the best.”
Boudreau says the Ducks have made adjustments to match the bruising style the Kings like to play.
“We gotten bigger this year,” he said. “For the most part, our goaltending has been equal to theirs. Their goaltending is great, whether it’s [Martin] Jones or [Jonathan] Quick. We’ve been able to match up a little bit better this year than we did last year.”
BACK IN THE LINEUP
After being a healthy scratch last night, Dustin Penner will return to the lineup for the next two games against the Kings, according to Boudreau.
“I wanted him to play against the Kings on Thursday and Saturday where he’ll have a little more jump,” he said. “I thought it was a good time to rest him on the eve of those games. We’ve got 14 forwards and they’re all playing well. It’s a tough decision on who sits and who doesn’t sit. I’ve told them if you're sitting because you’re playing bad, I’ll tell you. If you’re sitting because we have to move everybody in and out of the lineup, we want to keep everybody involved.”