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Ducks renew freeway rivalry with Kings

by Matthew Mankiewich
KINGS (32-23-4) at DUCKS (32-24-4)

TV -- FS-W (HD), KDOC (HD)

Last 10 --
Los Angeles 6-1-3; Anaheim 6-4-0

Season series -- An interesting twist of the NHL schedule is that these freeway rivals haven't met since the day after Christmas, so they have four more games to play in the intra-divisional series, including a home-and-home to finish off the regular season. Each meeting has marked a turning point for the losing team, the first game on Nov. 29 finishing off a dismal 1-7-0 November stretch for the Kings and sparking a strong December, the Boxing Day matchup bottoming out the Ducks and starting a 14-4-0 run to get back in the Western Conference playoff race.

Big story -- The net result of all the streakiness was both teams being part of a five-way tie in the conference going into Tuesday's action, their 68-point totals matching the Stars, Wild and Blackhawks, all vying for the last two playoff spots with the third seed only five points away. Dallas and Minnesota find themselves over the postseason cutoff on tiebreakers and games-in-hand, which of course can change quickly.

More streakiness prevails as both teams are trying to shake off slides, the Kings dropping games in Manhattan and Long Island as mere blips in an otherwise productive 10-game trip, the Ducks with three straight losses in which they've allowed a combined 21 goals.

Team scope:

Kings -- It's been a while since anyone denied the Kings a point, an 8-0-3 stretch to be exact, but the Islanders did it for the first time since Jan. 20 in a 3-0 win at Nassau Coliseum. Unlike the wins in Philadelphia and Washington, the Kings were caught flatfooted by a loose Islander team that boasted a pair of goals from former King Matt Moulson against brother-in-law Jonathan Quick

"It would have been a great road trip if we'd gotten two points, but everyone was looking at this as our make-or-break and we were right there," captain Dustin Brown said to the Los Angeles Times about the bump in the road. "We've just got to keep going. It's hard to sit here and be happy with how we played tonight, but we get home, we get some rest and we get ready for Anaheim."

Ducks --
In a season full of turning points, the Ducks are hoping this past weekend is one for the better. One step in that direction would be Jonas Hiller back in net. Eligible to come off injured reserve, he has been diagnosed with a balance issue and has been working with a physical therapist, but did not skate in practice Monday.

In Hiller's absence, Curtis McElhinney has been in a shooting gallery, going 0-3-0 with a 6.93 goals-against average and was pulled Saturday after allowing four goals on 11 shots. Timo Pielmeier was peppered for five more goals on 12 shots in his NHL debut and the Blues skated away with a 9-3 win.

"It doesn't matter who's in net," center Ryan Getzlaf said. "It's not that they're bad goals. They're getting bounces against us because we're not working for them."

Who's hot --
The shutout on Long Island ended a four-game point streak for Anze Kopitar, while Corey Perry's seven-game streak ended in St. Louis. Teemu Selanne has been on the board in eight of his last 10. Quick is 4-1-1 on the road trip with a 1.92 GAA. … Getzlaf has a point in all six games since he's played since returning from missing 14 games with facial fractures due to an errant puck.

Injury report -- Kings forward Marco Sturm, out the last 13 games with knee tendinitis, will be ready to go on Wednesday and provide a boost for linemates Wayne Simmonds and Kopitar, who's been getting assists but only one goal in his last 15 games. … Outside of Hiller, the Ducks should be at full strength.

Stat pack -- Quick has been streaky against the Ducks, going 0-2-1 in his last four starts with a 2.93 GAA after winning his first five. … Facing the Ducks could be just what the doctor ordered for the Kings power play, which has gone 1-for-15 in their last six games. … The Ducks have allowed five goals in nine chances over their last two. … The Kings tied a team record by going 11 games with a point, set way back in pre-shootout 1974.

Puck drop -- "Open up some ice and some room for him. He's pretty good with that, and he's also good about giving it to me, when I'm there. I've just got to make sure I use my speed more, and create some room and chances." -- Sturm on what he needs to do to help get Kopitar more scoring chances

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