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Kings try to continue December surge vs. Ducks

by Matthew Mankiewich /
DUCKS (18-16-4) at KINGS (20-12-1)

TV -- FS-W (HD)

Last 10 --
Anaheim 5-4-1; Los Angeles 7-2-1

Season series -- Second of six meetings this season between these Pacific Division rivals, and the first one turned out to be pivotal -- for the Kings, at least. When these two last met on Nov. 30 in the Honda Center, the Kings were finishing off a miserable November that brought them back to the pack after a record-setting opening month. The Ducks piled on with a 2-0 shutout, putting the Kings' November record at 1-7-0.

Big story -- "We're too good of a team not to win games," goalie Jonathan Quick said after that loss nearly a month ago. "We're going to start winning soon, and I think we'll be a better team for having gone through this."

They have, going 7-2-1 in December. It will be a different scenario and a different game when these two local rivals meet Sunday night, and not just because the Kings reign supreme at Staples Center with a 12-2-1 record, best in the NHL.

Team scope:

Ducks -- Despite the way the schedule broke, Anaheim is not the host of an impromptu second round of Winter Olympics. It just seems that way when a team goes on a seven-game road trip. Cram five of those games in seven nights and you have one exhausted, beat-up hockey team with a 2-3 record.

So what do you do? If you're the captain, you might just go out and beat someone else up. At least that's what Ryan Getzlaf had in mind when he saw his team play another lackluster first period in Buffalo. When the second period started, he called out Cody McCormick for a glove-dropping session.

While the fight was inconclusive, and the Ducks ended up losing the game 5-2, it got some notice on the Ducks' bench.

"I think he's trying to instill something through everybody," Bobby Ryan told the Orange County Register. "If he's going to go out and set an example in that sense, the guys got to follow. Not by fighting but by carrying through in the physical play and doing other things like that."

Kings -- If you live in Southern California, you're probably hungry for some local hockey. That's because the Ducks weren't the only ones out of town the past couple of weeks. The Kings went on a five-game swing through the Midwest and while that trip might not be considered quite so arduous, they made the most of it, going 3-2, including a shutout in Colorado. Just before the holiday, though, they had to grind one out at home against the scrappy Oilers, winning 3-2 in a shootout.

Justin Williams scored his third goal in four games to even things up at 1 and Jack Johnson erased a 2-1 deficit in the third, then they stole the extra point with scores from Justin Brown and Jarret Stoll, giving coach Terry Murray his 100th regular-season win with the Kings in his 197th game, the fastest to that mark by any coach in franchise history.

"Coaches win because they've have pretty good players," Murray said. "We've got good character here."

Who's hot -- Quick is one important reason for the Kings' December turnaround, going 6-2-1 with a 1.96 goals-against average. He's also 4-0 in shootouts and has a League-leading 1.59 GAA at home among goalies with at least four starts. Corey Perry had a pair of power-play goals in Buffalo to make it 11 total points in his last six games. Defenseman Jack Johnson has 4 assists in his last five games and is second on the team with 19 -- 12 of those coming on the power play.

Injury report -- Ducks center Nick Bonino sat out the Buffalo game with a bone bruise suffered in Boston but hopes the Christmas break will help his recovery. Forward Aaron Voros is still a couple of weeks away as he recovers from a fractured orbital bone. … Kings defenseman Matt Greene (upper body) remains day-to-day while defenseman Willie Mitchell (lower body) is week-to-week.

Stat pack -- Jonas Hiller will likely start Sunday night, and although he did shut the Kings out in Anaheim, he's 0-3-0 with a 4.11 GAA in Los Angeles. Bobby Ryan has just one assist in his last five games, but has seven points in six career games at Staples Center. … Quick had won five straight starts against the Ducks but is 0-2-1 with a 2.93 GAA in his last four. The Ducks won their last game in Los Angeles, edging the Kings 2-1 in a shootout on Apr. 3, but had lost four of five prior.

Puck drop -- "That's all part of the motivation thing and trying to get involved in the game. I thought it relatively worked, for a couple of minutes anyway. We just weren't able to get back from the deficit that we were at." -- Getzlaf, in the Orange County Register, on why he got into the fight in Buffalo

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