LOS ANGELES - Although Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle didn't say it specifically, the likelihood of Rickard Rakell making his regular-season debut tonight against the LA Kings is strong. Rakell has had a week's worth of practice with the Ducks to get him as close to game shape as possible. The 23-year-old had surgery in September to remove scar tissue resulting from an appendectomy, but a lengthy contract stalemate also forced him to miss all of training camp and preseason. Rakell signed a six-year contract on October 14 and flew to Anaheim shortly after.
He took line rushes with Antoine Vermette yesterday, and there's a good chance they alternate taking draws depending on where the faceoff takes place.
Following practice yesterday, Rakell said he felt ready to go and today he echoed those sentiments. "I've been waiting for this for a long time," he said after the team's optional skate at STAPLES Center. "I'm ready. These are always good games against LA." It was on this very sheet of ice where the normally easy-going Swede got into his first-ever fight, a spirited bout that surely in his mind felt like 12 rounds. Rakell was credited for the takedown on former Kings forward Kris Versteeg, who left the game after the fight with an upper-body injury.
Rakell was reminded of his fighting major earlier today and was asked if he had another one in him. "I have myself to worry about tonight," he said with a smile. "I'm just going to play hockey."
John Gibson was the first goaltender off the ice this morning, so you can expect No. 36 to make his eighth start of the season. Gibson enters tonight's contest with a 3-3-2 record, 2.55 goals-against average and .907 save percentage.
As for the Kings, who are coming off back-to-back shutout losses in St. Louis and Chicago over the weekend, they'll likely go with veteran Peter Budaj in net for the seventh consecutive game. The 34-year-old is 4-2-0 in seven appearances thus far with a 1.99 GAA and .916 SV%.
On the injury front, Andy Andreoff is being listed as day-to-day after suffering a lower-body injury in Sunday's game against the Blackhawks. Other notables out of the lineup include goaltenders Jonathan Quick (lower body) and Jeff Zatkoff (lower body), forward Marian Gaborik (lower body) and defenseman Brayden McNabb (upper body).
Although players have come and gone over the years, not much has changed in terms of the style of play that's put on display whenever these two clubs meet. Simply put, every inch of ice is earned. The difference between winning and losing is often determined by the willingness of either side to get into the "dirty areas," also known as the area in and around the crease.
"They make it very difficult to get to the critical areas of scoring goals with the people they have back there," said Cam Fowler. "No matter who's in net, you try to direct as many pucks to the paint as possible and get bodies there. We know the style they play. No surprises. It's always difficult coming in here. The blueprint of their team is to wear you down physically. You have to be ready to compete or else you'll get embarrassed."
Potential Line Combinations