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Ducks, Kings expecting a physical series

by Curtis Zupke

ANAHEIM -- It's no secret that the Anaheim Ducks are a high-scoring, skating team. But it's a misconception that they're a finesse team that can't bang with the Los Angeles Kings in a best-of-7 series.

That was proven at least twice in the regular season, and the Ducks intend on extending that physical play to the Western Conference Second Round series against the Kings. Game 1 is Saturday at Honda Center (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

"We had difficulty with them the year before, in terms of playing their type of game and in terms of beating them," forward Andrew Cogliano said. "But I think this year we've come to the realization that if we don't play their game we just can't beat them. It's that simple. You see teams throughout the year [that are] more offensive, run-and-gun teams, and they just don't have success against them.

"When it comes down to it, if you don't battle, if you don't win one-on-one battles and really show up and compete at a high level, you won't get anything done. They play such a strong game and their guys are big, so guys like myself and smaller guys on our team need to up our game in order to win."

Anaheim ranked 11th in the NHL in hits during the regular season and Los Angeles co-led the League with the Columbus Blue Jackets. But evidence that the Ducks can play the Kings' game lies in 2-1 wins on Jan. 23 and March 15. The former, in particular, is when Anaheim really had to grind it out.

"We've got some big guys than can move too," Ducks left wing Matt Beleskey said. "I think we've got a good balance of skating and physicality, so I think any game you've watched us play is always going to be a hard-hitting, aggressive contest. I don't expect any different [in Game 1]."

Beleskey and rugged left wing Patrick Maroon figure to have important sandpaper roles against one of the biggest teams in the NHL. Beleskey is a scrappy forward who specializes in puck retrieval. Maroon (6-foot-3, 230 pounds) is a combination of skill and size whose game has evolved. Each has played on the top line with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry.

Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau said Beleskey and Maroon could be significant factors against L.A. He would have handed Maroon a more prominent role last year had the Ducks played the Kings in the playoffs.

"The last time we were going to meet them, Maroon hadn't played, but I told him to be ready for that series because we were going to play him in that series," Boudreau said. "A big body against some of their big bodies is not going to hurt."

To their credit, the Kings also have plenty of skill. Forward Jeff Carter has one of the most lethal wrist shots in the game and young forwards Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson bring an added offensive dimension.

The Kings know the Ducks well enough to expect plenty of physicality in this all-California series.

"I think they're built pretty similar," Kings forward Anze Kopitar said of the two teams. "They have some big bodies and lots of skill throughout their lineup, so our game's not going to change a whole lot. We're just going to try and do the exact same thing as in the last series."

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