LOS ANGELES – Gridlocked at 99 points apiece, the Ducks and Kings meet for the final time this season with first place in the Pacific Division on the line. The winner tonight takes sole possession of the top spot and gets a step closer to facing the Nashville Predators in the First Round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Ducks have an all-important game in hand on the Kings, however, and have a rescheduled date with the Washington Capitals this Sunday in D.C. The Kings close out their season at Staples Center against the Winnipeg Jets on Saturday. Sitting in third place, just three points behind the Ducks and Kings are the San Jose Sharks, who face the Jets tonight at SAP Center.
Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler says having a division title on the line adds “a little more juice” to an already intense rivalry.
“Not that there really needs much more added,” Fowler said. “We’ve really had to fight hard to get ourselves back in this position after the start we had. It’s always a challenge coming into this building playing against a great hockey team. It should be one heck of a game.”
“It’s a playoff feel, and we’re excited,” said Ducks left wing Jamie McGinn. “These are two big points on the line tonight. We’re going to need our A-game right off the opening puck. It’ll be a good challenge for us and a big game going into the playoffs. There was a little more jump this morning. These are the games you want to have going into the playoffs. It’s going to take all the men in this locker room to get the win.”
Anaheim enters tonight’s game winners of four of its last six games (4-1-1) and points earned in six of the last seven (4-1-2, 10 pts.). The club is also 6-2-2 in its last 10 games and 19-5-4 in the last 28 contests. LA, meanwhile, is 4-6-0 in its past 10, but staged a late comeback in a 5-4 overtime victory in Calgary two nights ago.
“It’s not the playoffs yet, but it’s as close to the playoffs-type of situation you want to get into,” said Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau. “There are actually things on the line for it. It’ll be a great test. This is the one at the end of the year that will probably decide something, one way or another.”
The Ducks hold a 3-1-0 lead in the season series, including a 3-2 victory on March 5 at Staples Center along with a pair of 4-2 wins on Feb. 4 in Los Angeles and Feb. 28 in Anaheim. The Ducks are also 11-1-2 in their last 14 regular season games against the Kings.
John Gibson will make his sixth consecutive start tonight, with Anton Khudobin serving as the backup. Frederik Andersen hasn’t played since suffering a concussion last March 30 against Calgary. Boudreau says the ideal situation will be for Andersen to start Sunday’s season finale in Washington. Andersen was on the ice this morning taking shots, but Boudreau says it’ll come down to how Andersen feels before they make a decision.
As for the Kings, it appears they’ll be without defenseman Alec Martinez for tonight’s game. Martinez did not skate this morning in El Segundo, and is being listed as day to day. The 28-year-old last played on April 2 vs. Dallas.PROJECTED LINE COMBINATIONS
Jamie McGinn - Ryan Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Mike Santorelli - Shawn Horcoff - Chris Stewart
Ryan Garbutt - Nate Thompson - Chris Wagner
Cam Fowler - Simon Despres
Hampus Lindholm - Josh Manson
Clayton Stoner - Sami Vatanen
Anton KhudobinLOS ANGELES
Milan Lucic - Anze Kopitar - Tanner Pearson
Dustin Brown - Jeff Carter - Tyler Toffoli
Dwight King - Vincent Lecavalier - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Andy Andreoff - Kris Versteeg
Brayden McNabb - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Luke Schenn
Rob Scuderi - Jamie McBain