By Kyle Shohara
After waiting three months, one of the best rivalries in hockey is finally renewed. Tonight, the Ducks host the Los Angeles Kings at Honda Center to kick-start a five-game season series that includes one more game in Anaheim and three at Staples Center. It’ll be an electric, playoff-style atmosphere inside the arena tonight as the Ducks look for their eighth win in 11 games since the Christmas break, third win in a row and fourth of the last five.
Here's something to keep in mind. Over the past 10 games, the Ducks rank first in the NHL in power play percentage (34.6%), penalty killing percentage (94.6%), goals-against average (1.60), shot differential (+9.3), and rank third overall in save percentage (.935%) and points (15).
The Ducks are coming off a 4-2 victory two nights ago against the Dallas Stars, while the Kings are still fuming following a 5-3 loss yesterday that included four unanswered goals from the Ottawa Senators in the third period. The Ducks beat the Senators in similar fashion on Wednesday night when they erupted for three goals in a 3:29 span late in the third.
Tonight could mark the debut of left wing David Perron and/or defenseman Adam Clendening, both acquired late Friday night from the Pittsburgh Penguins in exchange for left wing Carl Hagelin. Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said yesterday after practice he had yet to finalize line combinations for tonight’s game. Perron, a three-time 20-goal scorer in his career, could slot into Hagelin’s spot on the second line with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg.
“Whoever is on that line will be doing the same job,” said Boudreau. “Kes and Silvy usually shut down the other team’s top line. We’ll figure out a good combination for a left winger to go in that situation who wouldn’t be too far removed from what Hagelin was.”
Although the 27-year-old struggled this season in Pittsburgh in terms of offense (four goals, 16 points in 43 games), his 105 hits ranked second on the club. Perron has appeared in 542 NHL games with St. Louis, Edmonton and Pittsburgh, scoring 133-179—312 points with 412 penalty minutes.
“He should be motivated,” said Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Bob Murray yesterday. “He definitely needed a change of scenery from Pittsburgh. We’ve all seen him get very hot at times. We can use someone getting really hot. He’s still a young guy. He’s definitely been streaky, but he’s definitely skilled. He’s been known to light it up, and that can’t hurt us.”
John Gibson could start tonight for the Ducks. Gibson is 9-6-2 with four shutouts, a 1.84 GAA and .926 SV% in 18 games this season, leading the NHL in GAA and ranking tied for third in shutouts and tied for 10th in SV%. He has won five of his last seven games (5 2-0) along with a 1.64 GAA and .930 SV% since the Christmas break.
As for the Kings, it won’t come as a surprise if head coach Darryl Sutter goes with Jonathan Quick again tonight. Quick was in rare form yesterday – and not in a good way – from the outset, but the Kings did him no favors with critical defensive breakdowns that led directly to goals. In other words, it was a rare off night for the entire team.
The Kings have been the face of consistency in an otherwise inconsistent division. Entering tonight’s game, Los Angeles has a 27-13-3 record (57 points) and the second-most road wins (13) in the Western Conference (13-6-2). In addition, Los Angeles is 7-2-1 in its past 10 games (as is Anaheim) and has given up the second-fewest goals in the NHL (97, two behind Washington). The Ducks rank fourth, having allowed 102 in 43 games.
“We know what they’re capable of, and they know what we’re capable of,” said Nate Thompson. “We all know the importance of these games. They’re emotional games, and it’s playoff-style hockey. It’s a war out there, but we’re looking forward to it. These are the games you want to play.”