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Ducks-Kings Preview @NHL

After finishing tied for the lowest point total in the NHL last season and bringing in a new coach over the summer, the Los Angeles Kings had to expect some growing pains early in 2008-09.

The Anaheim Ducks' slow start is considerably more surprising.

The Ducks try to put their early struggles behind them Tuesday night when they visit the Kings in a matchup of Pacific Division rivals looking for their first points of the season.

Los Angeles (0-2-0) is rebuilding under first-year coach Terry Murray after tying for an league-low 71 points in 2007-08 and missing the playoffs for the fifth straight season.

Because the Kings are a team in transition, it was hardly shocking that they were swept in their season-opening home-and-home series with perennial contender San Jose.

The Ducks, however, weren't expected to be in the division cellar along with the Kings after recording back-to-back 100-point seasons - the first two in franchise history - including their run to the Stanley Cup in 2006-07.

After losing 4-1 at San Jose on Thursday, Anaheim (0-2-0) looked sluggish again in a 4-2 defeat to Phoenix in its home opener Sunday.

"We're just not where we need to be with our focus," defenseman Scott Niedermayer said. "We're working, but we're not working smart and we're in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"Teams have success in this league by playing as a team, everybody knows what each other's doing, and you're playing the system. When you're playing that well, you have good results. Right now, we're really not doing that as five guys on the ice."

Though the Ducks are frustrated with their play in the first two games, it's not unfamiliar territory. After winning the Cup, they opened last season 4-7-2 - a prolonged slump they're determined to avoid this season.

"We need to go in there and step it up a notch," goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere said. "We need to not be going in there and being afraid to lose."

Though he's still looking for his first win with Los Angeles, Murray was encouraged by his club's performance in a 1-0 loss to San Jose on Sunday.

"I really liked the way we played, especially in the second half of the game," he said. "The third period was tremendous. We started to see something I hadn't seen yet, (they're) starting to work hard for teammates."

Part of the improvement may have been due to the return of Patrick O'Sullivan, who played his first game since signing a three-year, $8.775 million contract last Tuesday. The 23-year-old forward missed all the preseason while the new deal was being negotiated.

"It felt like I hadn't played a game in four or five months, but felt better as the game went on," said O'Sullivan, fourth on the team in scoring last season with 22 goals and 31 assists. "I'm glad to get that first game out of the way and live past the fact that I missed training camp. There's definitely some positives and I have a lot to improve upon, but it's definitely something I can develop."

O'Sullivan had three goals and two assists against Anaheim last season, but Los Angeles went 2-4-2 in the season series, including 2-2-0 at Staples Center.

The Kings' Jason LaBarbera has a 2.30 goals-against average in six career games versus the Ducks.

Giguere, who's given up eight goals in his first two games, is 11-3-3 with a 2.73 GAA in 17 games against Los Angeles since the beginning of the 2005-06 season.

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