|"It's a great rivalry to be so close and so competitive," Chris Kunitz said. "This just make it all more important, the two points that both teams are really looking for in the last quarter of the season." |
When the Ducks host the Kings on Wednesday night at Honda Center, it will be the closest thing yet to a playoff game between the Freeway Face-Off rivals.
Having never even been in the postseason at the same time in their histories, the Ducks (28-25-5) and Kings (24-22-9) are currently separated by just four points in the standings and a victory tomorrow night could prove pivotal in breaking through a flock of Western Conference teams itching for a playoff berth. Currently, the two teams are among 11 in the West (from fifth to last place) with between 53 and 63 points.
“It’s a huge game for both teams,” Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. “It’s a must-win game, a four-point game. You need to get as many points as you can. It should be a great battle.”
While the gap in the standings between the teams has been widespread since 2005-06 (as the Ducks made three straight trips to the playoffs and won a Stanley Cup while the Kings finished at or near the bottom of the standings), the rivalry has always produced tight battles. In the last 29 contests between Anaheim and Los Angeles, 22 have been decided by two goals or less and 10 have need overtime or a shootout.
“It’s a great rivalry to be so close and so competitive,” Chris Kunitz said. “It’s never really one team walking all over the other. This just makes it all more important, the two points that both teams are really looking for in the last quarter of the season.”
|"It's a huge game for both teams," J.S. Giguere said. "It's a must-win game, a four-point game. It should be a great battle." |
A win for the Ducks on Wednesday night would also help erase the bitter taste left from an 8-4 defeat to Atlanta on Sunday. Anaheim has worked hard in the two practices since in trying to solve the problems that reared their ugly heads against the Thrashers.
“We spent two days reviewing and trying to get answers why,” Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle said on Tuesday. “The No. 1 thing that comes out of it is that we’re definitely nowhere near good enough. The only way to change that is to do some of the things that we’re quite capable of doing and do them more consistently. It all has to start with us skating and moving our feet.”
With the disappointing loss and having allowed other teams to slightly catch up in games played over the last week, the Ducks find themselves in the rare spot of ninth place in the West. “I can’t remember the last time that we’ve been in the picture of not being in the playoffs other than the bad start we had at the beginning of the year,” Kunitz said. “It’s definitely an awakening. We need to have an urgency push right here to get us into the playoffs.”
Kunitz said that urgency needs to start from the beginning of the game against Los Angeles and it can’t relent for the team to reverse its fortunes over the course of the final 24 regular season games.
“We’ve given up the first goal a lot of times or given up the first penalty,” Kunitz said. “Those things put you on your heels to start. We have start with our first faceoff, get the win, get the first forecheck and go get those first goals. That is how we have to build our way towards getting into the playoffs.”
"We know that from here on out, it's going to be a playoff atmosphere for all these games. We need two points, especially against a team that is in that same cluster and needs those points to get in the playoffs." - Chris Kunitz
Wednesday night, the Ducks will be looking to clinch the Freeway Face-Off rivalry series for a second straight year. The game is also crucial in that it’s the last at home for Anaheim before the start of a season-long six-game road trip that features stalwarts like Detroit, Boston and Dallas, among others. A victory against the Kings could get the scales tipping in Anaheim’s favor just in time.
“Games at home are the ones you’re supposed to win,” Kunitz said. “We know we keep dropping in the standings every game that teams make up on us and that we don’t win. We know that from here on out, it’s going to be a playoff atmosphere for all these games. We need two points, especially against a team that is in that same cluster and needs those points to get in the playoffs.”