Ducks look to join Kings in Pacific's playoff party
Friday, 03.18.2011 / 1:35 PM
NHL.comDUCKS (38-27-5) at KINGS (40-26-5)
TV: FS-W (HD)
Anaheim 6-3-1; Los Angeles 6-3-1
This is the fourth meeting this season between in-state rivals whose arenas are separated by a mere 38 miles. They will close out their respective seasons with a home-and-home series Apr. 8-9. In their last meeting on Feb. 23, Willie Mitchell
's third-period goal proved to be the winner as the Kings completed their franchise-record 10-game road swing with a 3-2 victory in Anaheim.
Considered the League's most-competitive division, the Pacific could see all five of its teams make the playoffs. Coming into this game, Anaheim is its only team not occupying a playoff spot, trailing eighth-place Calgary by two points while holding three games in hand. The Kings hold the fifth spot in the West, but by the slimmest of margins, with only four points separating them from Anaheim.
Having not played since Wednesday, Anaheim is poised to make a final playoff push with the help of a schedule that will see it play three of its last four games at the Honda Center. Winners of three of their last four, the Ducks also received some encouraging news this week, as All-Star goaltender Jonas Hiller told local media that he was feeling better after suffering from vertigo-like symptoms that have kept him out of action since Feb. 13.
Against St. Louis on Wednesday, Jason Blake provided both goals in a 2-1 victory that saw goaltender Ray Emery make 30 saves to earn his first NHL victory since Jan. 30, 2010. With no word on when or even if Hiller will return, the Ducks could come to rely on Emery in their late-season push for a playoff spot.
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"I definitely had butterflies going," Emery said. "When you get the opportunity, you want to make the most of it."
After going undefeated on their recent four-game road trip, the Kings came up flat in their return to Staples Center on Thursday. Against the upstart Blues, the Kings were outshot 39-17 and fell 4-0 in a loss punctuated by an Alex Pietrangelo slap shot from center ice that eluded goaltender Jonathan Quick
"You know what the most disappointing, frustrating thing was?" coach Terry Murray said. "At the end of the second period, we were booed off the ice by our fans. That is the most embarrassing thing I have ever been through."
Ducks defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky has 6 points on his current four-game points streak while teammate Teemu Selanne has 4 points in his last four games. … Anze Kopitar
saw his five-game points streak end against St. Louis, but he still has 9 points in his last six games.
Other than Hiller, the Ducks sport an injury-free roster. … The Kings' only injury is winger Scott Parse
, who is on IR following hip surgery.
Since returning to Anaheim for the 2005-06 season, Teemu Selanne has absolutely feasted on his SoCal rivals. He has 37 points in 30 games against the Kings since coming back to the Ducks. Against Los Angeles, Selanne also scored his 1,000th point in 2006 and set Anaheim's franchise goals record in 2007.
Not only have these Freeway Faceoff rivals never met in the playoffs, they have never made the playoffs in the same season. With San Jose poised to win the Pacific Division and two California-born players, Emerson Etem and Beau Bennett, selected in the first round of last summer's draft, this could potentially be a landmark season for hockey in the Golden State.