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Pregame Report: Intensity Rises as Ducks, Kings Renew Rivalry

by Staff Writer / Anaheim Ducks

By Kyle Shohara

Morning Skate Photos

It’s been over three months since the Freeway Faceoff was held at Honda Center, and perhaps tonight provides a glimpse into a potential playoff matchup as the Ducks close out their three-game homestand against the Los Angeles Kings.

John Gibson will make his eighth consecutive start for the Ducks, and it’ll be Frederik Andersen who serves as his backup. The Ducks made room for Andersen’s return by reassigning Jason LaBarbera to Norfolk of the American Hockey League earlier today. LaBarbera did not make an appearance in his most recent recall to Anaheim.

When asked if he’s seen a slippage in Gibson’s play because of the increased workload, head coach Bruce Boudreau said it’s had the opposite effect.

“He’s gotten better and better,” Boudreau said. “Hopefully he’ll stay up to that standard. If he can keep teams to one or two goals, it’s up to us to score. I don’t think fatigue is anything.”

Taking line rushes on the fourth line in place of center Nate Thompson (lower body) was Chris Wagner, recalled yesterday from Norfolk. He skated with Patrick Maroon and Tim Jackman. Jiri Sekac took rushes on the right wing with Emerson Etem and Rickard Rakell. Though a natural left wing, Sekac played right wing during his most recent stretch of games with the Montreal Canadiens. Expect Kyle Palmieri to see time on the first line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, and Andrew Cogliano with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg.

Games against the Kings always have one common denominator – physicality. These teams have combined for 239 hits in the first three games of the season series (108 for Anaheim, 131 for Los Angeles). These are the types of games Patrick Maroon lives for.

“Playoff hockey starts tonight,” said Maroon, who has 90 hits in 54 games this season. “We have to bring our intensity. We know it’s going to be a battle. It’s going to be a man’s game tonight. They’re battling for a playoff spot and we’re battling for first place and home-ice advantage. It’s going to come down to who wants it more. Everyone is excited in this room. It’s going to be a good challenge.”

It also might be a game decided by one goal, as the first three games of the season series. “We know they’re defending extremely well, so goals are going to be hard to come by,” said Boudreau. “It’s a race to two goals. But we know it’s going to be a man’s game - a physical game - out there.

“The emotional play is a given with both of these teams whenever they play each other. It’s something I don’t need to bring up with anybody.”

Matt Beleskey
admits his injury could’ve been a lot worse. After going awkwardly into the boards during a game on Feb. 15 vs. Washington, Beleskey (who ranks second on the team with 21 goals), sat on the bench for a few minutes before calling it a night. His timetable for return at the time was two to four weeks, and although he says his recovery is going smoothly, he wants to make sure he’s healed and ready for the postseason.

“I don’t want to come back and have a nagging injury coming into the playoffs,” he said. “I want to be ready to go, no hesitation with hitting or anything like that. We’re going to make sure it’s 100 percent. It’s been healing really well.”

Beleskey noted the injury to Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who went into the boards in similar fashion. Kane underwent surgery to repair a broken clavicle two days ago, and is expected to be out 12 weeks.

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