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Seven questions for Ducks-Kings Game 7

by Corey Masisak

ANAHEIM -- For the second consecutive round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a series involving two California teams will go the distance.

The first postseason meeting between the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings will conclude with a Game 7 on Friday at Honda Center (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The road team won the first four games of the series; the home side has prevailed in the past two.

Each team has scored 13 goals. Four of the games have been decided by one goal, and one of the two that wasn't featured an empty-netter.

The winner will claim bragging rights in Southern California and a chance to play the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final.

Here are seven questions to ponder as the Ducks and Kings brace for the final battle of California for the 2013-14 season:

1. Will the beginning of John Gibson's NHL career officially reach fairy tale-type status?

Gibson will play the fourth Stanley Cup Playoff game of his career, which means the 20-year-old will have more experience in the playoffs than the regular season at this level. His numbers at the NHL level are silly: Nine goals allowed in six total games, a .950 save percentage and two shutouts.

There was a slight wobble in Game 6, and Trevor Lewis' soft goal proved to be the difference for the Kings. Gibson has been touted as one of the best young goalies in the world and he has shown he’s worthy of the hype.

Beating Jonathan Quick, who has similarly stupendous numbers in elimination games, in a Game 7 only would further bolster the burgeoning hysteria surrounding Gibson and the possibilities for he and the Ducks in this postseason and beyond.

2. Who will win the battle of the top lines?

Anze Kopitar's line with the Kings and Ryan Getzlaf's line with the Ducks haven't always been matched against each other in this series, but Kopitar has seen a lot of Anaheim's top defense pairing (Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy), and Los Angeles has had defensemen Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin on the ice against Getzlaf a fair amount.

Getzlaf has seven points in the series, but Corey Perry has none in the three losses and eight shots on goal in the past four games. Kopitar also has seven points, and set up the first goal of Game 6 with a beautiful pass. His linemate, Marian Gaborik, has five goals and eight points in the series.

Anaheim's depth has been a little better, so Los Angeles might need another big performance from its top line in this one.

3. Which version of the Ducks' power play will show up?

Anaheim is 4-for-8 on the power play in its three victories but 1-for-13 in the three losses. The Kings have controlled the series at even strength for long stretches, but the Ducks' ability to score with the extra man is an advantage.

After Game 6, Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Anaheim's power play "stunk." There was a lot of passing and a not a lot of shooting. There might not be a lot of penalties called because of it being a Game 7, but the Ducks might need one from the power-play unit.

4. Can the shorthanded Los Angeles defense corps hold up for one more game?

Willie Mitchell skated for at least the third time in the past four days when he participated in the morning skate Friday. Coach Darryl Sutter ruled him out for Game 7 though, so the Kings likely will continue with the six defensemen they've used since Robyn Regehr was injured in Game 1.

The Kings have run into some trouble when Doughty and Muzzin aren't on the ice, but it was a strong effort from the full group in Game 6. Can the bottom four defensemen play well to get this team into the conference final and maybe give Mitchell a chance to return?

5. How much will the Kings' "championship blood" actually matter?

The Ducks have a few players who have won the Stanley Cup and been through deep playoff runs. The Kings have more. Thirteen of the 19 players expected to be on the ice for Los Angeles were regulars when the Kings won the Cup in 2012.

The Kings have rallied from a 3-0 deficit against the San Jose Sharks this season and a 2-0 hole against the St. Louis Blues last season; they would like to add a 3-2 disadvantage to the list. Anaheim had won three straight games in the series, but Game 6 was vintage "get a lead and slam the door" stuff from the Kings.

One more win would mean six victories in elimination games this postseason for the Kings. The Ducks, meanwhile, have plenty of motivation after losing a Game 7 at home last season to the Detroit Red Wings.

6. Can "Mr. Game 7" do it again?

Justin Williams has five goals and 10 points in five career Game 7s. He hasn't scored a goal in this series, but he's got three assists. He also had four goals in the four games Los Angeles had to win to complete the reverse sweep of San Jose.

He's one of three players on the Kings, along with Mike Richards and Gaborik, to be 5-0 in Game 7s. Boudreau is 1-4 as a coach in Game 7s and told the media Thursday he thinks he "is due."

7. Will this be the final game of Teemu Selanne's storied NHL career?

The 43-year-old Selanne is one of the best players in the history of the sport. He's one of the most beloved as well, a true ambassador for hockey in North America as well as his native Finland.

He was frustrated at times during the regular season, but was named MVP at the 2014 Sochi Olympics after helping the Finns to a bronze medal despite several key injuries. He also has two goals and five points in his past seven games in this postseason and has been a dangerous player for the Ducks.

Is there another bit of Selanne magic coming Friday? And will his teammates be able to extend his farewell tour for at least another round?

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