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Ducks eager to face Kings for first time in playoffs

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- They went through drills with more pep than usual. There were a few huddles around the greaseboard. A good number of them spent some extra time on the ice.

Yes, the Anaheim Ducks officially have the Los Angeles Kings on their minds after they learned that the first Ducks-Kings matchup in the Stanley Cup Playoffs will start Saturday at Honda Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"I think it's going to be physical, so we're just getting them ready," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I think you need something like that before getting into what I think is going to be a emotional series on both sides. Plus, it looked like they were tired of practicing. They just want to get at somebody rather than being friends.

"When you go so many days playing every second day, or at the most, two days off; we haven't had more than two days off in our schedule in the last half of our year. Now you get Sunday to Saturday, it's a long break for them."

The Ducks completed their Western Conference First Round series against the Dallas Stars on Sunday. The time off helped mend injured players Mathieu Perreault and Hampus Lindholm, who have been skating and are believed to be ready although Boudreau wouldn't say if they are available. Left wing Matt Beleskey was back on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

With their injured players on the mend, the Ducks sent rookie Richard Rakell, who had his first NHL goal in Game 5 of the series against Dallas, to Norfolk of the American Hockey League.

The big question surrounding Anaheim is its starting goalie. Boudreau has said publicly he's decided on a starter but hasn't revealed if it's Jonas Hiller or rookie Frederik Andersen.

"One of those two guys, I'm telling you, will give us that great goaltending," Boudreau said.

Hiller said he does not yet know if he will start Game 1. He did say how much he liked being back in goal for the series-clinching Game 6, when he relieved Andersen and stopped all 12 shots he faced in a 5-4 overtime win.

"You feel like you helped the team turn that game around," Hiller said. "That definitely boosts your confidence, boosts the confidence for the team. It makes it easier, mentally, to feel a part of the game except if you're just sitting on the bench."

Hiller also said how much he embraced being the No. 1 goalie, as opposed to the routine of a backup.

"Sometimes that's the thing; you normally get off the ice [when] most guys are already showered or leaving," he said. "It seems like you're on a different schedule there. You're probably not feeling integrated as if you are if you're playing. Being back in there and going through the whole process was definitely exciting and mentally helped me a lot. It was nice to get that mental break and get back into that game situation."

Dallas is more of a speed team than Los Angeles, but the first-round series was physical and the Stars were able to get under the Ducks' skin with their agitators in the form of scrums after whistles and high hostilities.

In that regard, the Ducks feel that will help them prepare for the Kings.

"That Dallas series was one of the hardest-fought series that I've played in, in the years I've been here," Getzlaf said. "Those are what we've come to expect, and the next one will be no different."

The Ducks are still wrapping their heads around playing the Kings for the first time in the playoffs. Los Angeles on Wednesday became the fourth team in NHL history to erase a 3-0 series deficit and win a best-of-7; it rivals Wayne Gretzky's hat trick game against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1993 conference final as the greatest Game 7 in Kings history.

"Those guys are playing well," Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler said. "Four wins in a row. You know the type of confidence they're going to come in with. We know what we're up against, but it's a challenge that we're ready for.

"They feel like playoff games when you play those guys. The buildings are always sold out. The fans are into it. You get some of that emotions going that you might not get in a normal regular season game so it definitely has added intensity to it."

Boudreau watched intently as the Kings came back against the San Jose Sharks, and he knows what they face in this matchup.

"When they started playing, they were playing like they were when they won the Cup," Boudreau said. "That's what I thought. They just kept coming and coming and they didn't deviate from the way they played. They had four lines playing, and [goalie Jonathan] Quick was looking so much more like Quick in the last four games than he did the first three, which is good for them. Not for us, but good for them."

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