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Division title hangs in balance as Kings host Ducks

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings


BATTLE FOR THE PACIFIC: Tonight marks the fifth and final meeting with the Ducks this season as well as Anaheim’s third of three visits to STAPLES Center. The Ducks are coming off of a four-game home stand that saw them go 2-1-1, and are playing the first of a three-game road trip; they’re coming off of a 2-1 OT loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday night. The Kings are playing the first of a two-game home stand; they’re coming off of a 5-4 OT win over the Calgary Flames on Tuesday night.

PLAYOFF-FEEL: “It’s obviously a big game for us and for [the Ducks] as well, with first place kind of hanging in the balance,” said Dustin Brown after the morning skate. “One of our goals was to try to get home-ice, and this game goes a long way towards getting that; and then you add that it’s the Ducks, so it should be a pretty playoff-like atmosphere and playoff-like game.”

LINEUP: The Kings held a morning skate at the Toyota Sports Center in anticipation of tonight’s game. Alec Martinez (day-to-day) did not take the ice with the team and is expected to miss his third-straight game. Nic Dowd, Kevin Gravel and Nick Shore remained on the ice for extra work along with Jhonas Enroth and are the presumed healthy scratches. Jonathan Quick will start in net.

FORWARDS

LUCIC – KOPITAR – PEARSON
BROWN – CARTER – TOFFOLI
KING – LECAVALIER – LEWIS
CLIFFORD – ANDREOFF – VERSTEEG
(DOWD – SHORE)

DEFENSEMEN

MCNABB – DOUGHTY
MUZZIN – SCHENN
SCUDERI – MCBAIN
(MARTINEZ – GRAVEL)

GOALTENDERS

QUICK
(ENROTH)

THE LAST TIME AROUND: The Kings are 1-3-0 against Anaheim in their four previous meetings with the Ducks this season, their lone win coming in the teams’ first match-up on January 17 at Honda Center. Anze Kopitar (1G, 5A) leads all Kings players in points scored against the Ducks this season with six, Tyler Toffoli in goals scored (2). Jonathan Quick has started all four games against Anaheim, posting a 3.62 GAA and a .870 SV%.

GIBSON’S IN: The Kings will see goaltender John Gibson for the fourth time this year when he starts in goal for the Ducks tonight. In 38 games this season, Gibson is 20-12-4 with a .921 SV% and a 2.04 GAA. In three starts against the Kings, Anaheim’s goaltender has posted a 2-1-0 record with a .913 SV% and a 2.34 GAA.

FIGHTING FOR FIRST: Coming into the game tied atop the Pacific with 99 points apiece, tonight’s result will go a long way in deciding which team finishes the season with a division championship, Anaheim is vying for their fourth-straight Pacific division title. If the Kings beat the Ducks and can earn two points against Winnipeg Saturday, they’ll finish in first-place. Of course, though, there are numerous possibilities at-hand. The scenarios are all laid out here:

PUSH BACK: The Kings have had their difficulties with the Ducks in regular season contests over the past few seasons; Anaheim is 11-1-2 against the Kings in the teams’ last 14 match-ups dating back to December 3, 2013. The Kings have dropped both of Anaheim’s visits to STAPLES Center this season, and have not recorded a regulation win against the Ducks on home ice since April 13, 2013.

Big day. #LAKings - Ducks tonight at 7:30PM, @staplescenterla

A photo posted by LA Kings (@lakings) on

WE’RE DOING IT LIVE: Catch the ‘Kings Live’ pregame show at 7:00 PM PST on Fox Sports West, followed with Nick Nickson and Jim Fox on the live play-by-play call from STAPLES Center for puck drop just after 7:30. You can listen to Jon Rosen and Daryl Evans call the action over the radio airwaves on AM 790 KABC.

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