s recently as a couple weeks ago, it didn't appear as though tonight's game between the Kings and Ducks at STAPLES Center would have major playoff implications.
The Kings were in the top eight in the Western Conference, but the Ducks were near the bottom, and talk of them being "sellers" on the trade market was heating up.
Not so fast. Now, the Kings are in eighth in the West, just four points ahead of the Ducks (with one game in hand). Suddenly, tonight's game isn't just about local pride. It might be about taking a big step toward the postseason.
"It's a race, there's no question," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "The value of two points is, I think, pretty clear to everybody now. It's playoff-type hockey, from this point right through to the end of the year. It should be an exciting game because of it."
The Ducks have won five consecutive games, and allowed only nine goals in those five games, while the Kings have lost seven of their last 10, all by one goal.
That figures to set up for a tight, low-scoring game, although in the teams' only previous meeting this season, on Dec. 1 in Anaheim, the Kings won 4-3. The Ducks will be without Teemu Selanne, who suffered a broken jaw in Wednesday night's game.
The center matchup is always intriguing between the rivals, as each team features a big, young, talented center. It's the Kings' Anze Kopitar
against the Ducks' Ryan Getzlaf, although the Kings will tend toward matching up Getzlaf's line with their line centered by Michal Handzus, which also includes Dustin Brown
and Alexander Frolov.
"The way the line is set up there, with Zeus, Fro and Brownie, it’s a pretty good bulky line to match up against another big line like Getzlaf," Murray said. "That’s the way I’ll start. I’ll see how things go, obviously. It changes, and I’ll see how (Ducks coach) Randy Carlyle changes. He likes to get things going as the puck hits the ice, making changes on the fly. I will not get Kopi off the ice in that matchup. I don’t mind it.
"(Kopitar) has played against the top lines a lot in the last year and a half. I’ll stay with that. So if he wants to get away from Zeus or away from Kopitar, that’s a choice that obviously he can make. I’m not going to change on the fly to match him." BACK AT IT
Kings goalie Jonathan Quick
got something rare this week: rest.
Quick, who did not play in Monday's loss to San Jose, will start tonight in goal but got four days off between games, a chance to rest and work with goalie coach Bill Ranford, who was in town this week. It was only the fifth game in which Quick did not play.
Murray, who earlier indicated that Quick might have been a little worn down, said the rest had helped his goalie.
"It gives him a time to step back a bit and regroup emotionally, regroup physically," Murray said. "The time with Billy, the last few days, has been important for him, so I hope it works the right way. We'll know after the game is over. We're going to need a big game from Quicker." BACK IN
As expected, Peter Harrold will join the lineup, in place of Alec Martinez
, and play defense for just the second time this season. Harrold will partner with Randy Jones, while the Kings will stay with their other two pairings: Drew Doughty
with Rob Scuderi
, and Jack Johnson with Sean O'Donnell.