It's already taken center stage in a 2014 Coors Light NHL Stadium Series game.
Now, a little over three months after they met outdoors at Dodger Stadium, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings will put their Southern California rivalry to the test for the first time in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
They've been playing each other since the Ducks entered the NHL in 1993, but it's taken 21 years for their first postseason matchup to happen in the Western Conference Second Round.
Game 1 is scheduled to take place Saturday at Honda Center in Anaheim (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).
Los Angeles became the fourth team in NHL history to complete a comeback from a 3-0 series deficit with a 5-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 7 of their Western Conference First Round series Wednesday.
Anaheim has been idle since Sunday; the Ducks beat the Dallas Stars in six games in their first-round series. The Ducks rallied from a 4-2 deficit late in the third period before Nick Bonino's second goal of the night at 2:47 of overtime sent Anaheim into the second round.
Anaheim and Los Angeles faced each other five times during the regular season; the Ducks lost a 3-2 shootout decision Dec. 13 at Honda Center then went on to win the next four games, including the Stadium Series game on Jan. 25, allowing five goals.
Ryan Getzlaf was injured in one first-round game and missed another because of a facial injury, but he ended up tied with linemate Corey Perry for the most points (seven) in the series. Getzlaf and Perry easily faced the toughest competition and can expect the same in this round.
Bonino was a Game 6 hero with two goals, including the series-winner in overtime. There is a lot of depth here, and coach Bruce Boudreau isn't afraid to tinker with who is in the lineup and where guys slot in. Teemu Selanne had two assists in Game 6, but he was a healthy scratch in Game 4.
Saku Koivu's line drew a lot of the defensive zone faceoffs in the opening round, and anyone not named Andrew Cogliano who played on his line did not have a particularly strong series. The Ducks' two best forwards when it comes to possessing the puck against Dallas were Mathieu Perreault, who missed the end of the series with a lower-body injury, and Kyle Palmieri, though he saw the least amount of ice time per game for anyone who played more than twice.
Emerson Etem and Rickard Rakell are wild cards for the Ducks. Each is young, speedy and talented, but how much will Boudreau trust them against better competition?
Anze Kopitar played well early in the series against the Sharks then dominated in the final four games. He finished with four goals and seven points in the four victories, and his line completely shut down the Sharks' second line of Logan Couture, Patrick Marleau and Matt Nieto.
Two lineup tweaks may not have been the biggest reason for the comeback, but several players played better after they happened. Dustin Brown joined Kopitar and Marian Gaborik on the top line, pushing Justin Williams to the third unit. Mike Richards was moved to center the fourth line, putting Jeff Carter between rookies Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson.
Gaborik had a sneaky nice series, and Brown played much better back on the top line. Williams helped spark the third line, and it was a big advantage for the Kings. Richards earned his normal ice time with special-teams work and finding shifts elsewhere, but he allowed coach Daryl Sutter to put the fourth line out at times against San Jose's top trio.
Toffoli and Pearson were great together, and Carter was probably the Kings' third best forward behind Kopitar and Williams. If the rookies are playing well, the Kings can match and maybe even surpass the Ducks' depth up front. They have a clear advantage at center, especially if Kopitar and/or Richards can slow Getzlaf and Perry.
With Kopitar, Carter, Richards and Jarret Stoll, the Kings might have four of the five best centers in the series. Stoll's offensive numbers weren't great this season, but if he's essentially getting the fourth-most minutes in the group, that's a pretty nice luxury.
Cam Fowler and Ben Lovejoy had a strong first-round series for the Ducks and were a consistent pairing for Anaheim when they were healthy at the same time during the regular season. They faced the toughest competition against Dallas, and that meant a lot of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin; however, Fowler and Lovejoy did not get hammered in the possession stats like the rest of the defense, save for rookie Hampus Lindholm.
Fowler, Lovejoy and Lindholm were all at 50 percent or better in Corsi for percentage at even strength for the series, but the other five defensemen who played were all at 46.4 percent or worse.
Lindholm is a fascinating study. His numbers are buoyed a bit by an extreme zone start advantage. Nearly 62 percent of the non-neutral zone faceoffs for which Lindholm was on the ice came in the offensive zone, and he did not face particularly tough competition. His ice time might be sheltered, but on a team that has problems with puck possession, his ability to thrive in those minutes is valuable.
Losing Stephane Robidas to a broken leg was a big blow. Lindholm also missed time during the first round. Luca Sbisa had been passed on the depth chart (in part because of an injury) this season, but he came back and played twice against the Stars and could be a regular in the second round. Bryan Allen draws a lot of defensive-zone assignments, but expect him to get picked on when it comes to zone entries and dumping the puck into a specific corner. Another rookie, Sami Vatanen, played 48 games this season and had 21 points, but he is not on the roster. He might be one more injury away from being back in the Ducks' plans.
Kopitar has 10 points, but Drew Doughty was the most valuable player of the first round for the Kings. He finished with a goal and seven points, and despite facing the toughest competition, the Kings had 57.1 percent of the shot attempts at even strength with him on the ice.
Doughty pairs with Jake Muzzin at even strength and Alec Martinez on the power play. Muzzin and veteran Robyn Regehr weren't part of the team in 2012 when it won the Stanley Cup. Regehr had a rough series against the Sharks, particularly early.
Slava Voynov anchors the second pair, typically with Regehr. Martinez was playing with Willie Mitchell, but Mitchell missed Game 7 with an injury and Matt Greene came into the lineup. The Ducks, like the Sharks were able to early, will try to play fast and take advantage of Regehr and Mitchell or Greene.
Rookie Frederik Andersen was a surprise starter for Game 1 against Dallas, and he started every game against the Stars. He had superior numbers to longtime starter Jonas Hiller during the regular season and Hiller struggled near the end, so Boudreau made the bold choice.
But Hiller replaced Andersen during Game 6 and helped engineer a big comeback by stopping every shot he faced. Will Boudreau let Hiller keep the net, or will he go back to Andersen?
John Gibson is also in the muddled goaltending picture. He played well in three starts near the end of the season, and he's the future in net for the Ducks. It isn't out of the question if Hiller and Andersen struggle that he becomes the solution in the present.
Jonathan Quick allowed 16 goals in the first three games against the Sharks and looked nothing like a recent Conn Smythe Trophy winner. Then he allowed five goals in four games to one of the most high-powered offenses.
Quick had some troubles with losing pucks in the air in traffic, and getting himself out of position, but when he was locked in the Sharks couldn't solve him. Given the current state of flux in the Anaheim net, this appears to be one of two big advantages for Los Angeles (along with its ability to possess the puck).
Boudreau has one of the best regular-season records of any coach in NHL history. He hasn't had the same level of success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but he has won championships in the ECHL and American Hockey League.
He's already made a pair of gutsy moves in this postseason, starting Andersen over Hiller and taking Selanne, a likely future Hall of Fame member, out of the lineup for a game. Handling the goaltending situation will draw a lot of attention, but how Boudreau manages matchups against the Kings, who've been superior at possessing the puck this season, might be his most important task of the second round.
Sutter is a fascinating coach. His dealings with the media can be inconsistent, but he clearly has accepted some of the philosophies that analytic types have endorsed.
He has a veteran group, but wasn't afraid to give Pearson and Toffoli prime real estate next to Carter. He didn't waver when the team fell behind to San Jose. Many teams that aren't very successful talk a lot about identity and culture and other buzz words.
The Kings have all of that in abundance, and much of that is because of Sutter. They, like their coach, just like to go about their business and trust the process.
The Ducks scored seven power-play goals in the first round, including four in Game 5. The power play stole that game for Anaheim, and it may be called upon to do so again at some point in this series. The Ducks thwarted 26 of 29 extra-man chances for the Stars, but were a middle-of-the-pack team on the PK during the regular season.
Anaheim will need to win the special-teams battle to combat a likely disadvantage at even strength.
The Kings won the Stanley Cup with a poor power play and a dominant penalty kill. In the regular season, the Kings were one of the worst teams in the League with the extra man and only above-average on the PK.
This is one of the best teams in the League at even strength, so staying close in the special-teams battle is all the Kings need to be successful.
Francois Beauchemin -- There will be more pressure on Beauchemin in this series because Robidas is out and the Kings are significantly deeper than the Stars. Beauchemin played a lot against the Stars, but if the Ducks get pushed around in puck possession when he's on the ice, it could spell big trouble for Anaheim.
Mike Richards -- When the score was close at even strength against the Sharks, the Kings had 64.9 percent of the shot attempts with Richards on the ice. The team also shot 0.0 percent, while the goalies had a save percentage of .867.
Richards was the unluckiest player on the Kings in the first round, and he had eight shots on goal in Game 7. If he plays well and the luck changes, the Ducks are going to have serious problems with Los Angeles' center depth.
WILL WIN IF
Ducks will win if … One of the goaltenders seizes the job and plays extremely well, the power play is a consistent factor, and the disadvantage at even strength is kept to a minimum.
Kings will win if …They play as well as they did in the final 4-5 games against the Sharks. Even if they can't quite reach that level, it can be enough.
Author: Corey Masisak | NHL.com Staff Writer
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