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Kings host Ducks in 'huge' battle for Pacific

by Alex Kinkopf / Los Angeles Kings


DATE WITH THE DUCKS: Saturday afternoon marks the fourth of five meetings with the Ducks this season and the second of Anaheim’s three visits to STAPLES Center. The Ducks are playing the final of a two-game road trip; they’re coming off of a 5-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night. The Kings are playing the second of a five-game home stand; they’re coming off of a 3-2 win over the Montreal Canadiens Thursday night.

UNDER THE SUN: Saturday marks the sixth of seven afternoon games scheduled for the Kings at STAPLES Center this season. Daytime hockey has been delightfully favorable to the Kings on home ice this year; they’re 4-1-0 under the sun, their only loss coming on January 16 to the Ottawa Senators.

LINEUP: The Kings held a full practice on Friday afternoon at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo in anticipation of Saturday’s game. Kris Versteeg moved to the fourth line and skated on the right side of Kyle Clifford and Nick Shore. Andy Andreoff and Jamie McBain are likely to be healthy scratches come game time. Jonathan Quick left the ice first and will start in net.

FORWARDS

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

DEFENSEMEN

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

GOALTENDERS

QUICK
(ENROTH)

WHO’S FIRST?: The Kings come into the day tied with Anaheim for first place in the Pacific division; both teams having 80 points through 63 games played. “Tomorrow’s a big game, one of the biggest games of the year,” Brayden McNabb said Friday. “it’s one of those statement games for two teams that don’t really like each other that much, you know it’ll be fun.” The Kings, who have held on to the top spot in the Pacific since the second week of the season, know what’s at stake. “We just know to treat it like a playoff game,” McNabb said. “We’re fighting for first place so it’s going to be a battle.”

HOT, HOT, HOT: The Ducks broke a franchise record Thursday night when they won their 10th consecutive game. In their previous 22 games, dating back to January 13, Anaheim has lost only twice in regulation, posting a remarkable 19-2-1 record. The Ducks also set a record for the franchise’s best February ever in wins (12) and points attained (25). “They’re a good combination of size and skill and speed, their back end’s good, they’ve got a good goalie, there’s no weaknesses,” Luke Schenn said of the Ducks Friday.

THE LAST TIME AROUND: In the Kings’ previous meeting with the Ducks on February 28 at Honda Center, they lost 4-2. The Kings are 1-2-0 against Anaheim this season, winning in the teams’ first meeting of the season on January 17 at Honda Center, losing the second 4-2 on February 4 at STAPLES Center. Anze Kopitar leads all Kings players in points scored (5) against the Ducks this season (1G, 4A), Alec Martinez in goals scored (2G, 1A). Jonathan Quick has started all three games against the Ducks, getting pulled once; he has stopped 61 of the 70 shots faced.

RIVALRY RATING: Milan Lucic knows all too well about being involved in a heated NHL rivalry, having been a part of the Boston Bruins – Montreal Canadiens feud for eight seasons. “I think if you ask a Ducks player when we come into town, when the Kings come into town, there’s a little bit of extra in the Honda Center,” Lucic said of the Kings – Ducks rivalry Friday. “And definitely when they come into the Staples Center, there is a little bit of extra in there, a little bit of that buzz in there, so you can definitely feel it when you’re on the ice and I think that’s what makes it special to be a part of.”

The day ahead of Anaheim. #LAKings - @anaheimducks Saturday, 1:00 PM @staplescenterla

A photo posted by LA Kings (@lakings) on

WE’RE DOING IT LIVE: Catch the ‘Kings Live’ pregame show at 12:30 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 1:00. As always, you can listen to Jon Rosen and Daryl Evans call the action over the radio airwaves on AM 790 KABC.

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