Pacific Division archrivals, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings, will meet for the first time this season at Honda Center in Anaheim.
In what was expected to be a “retooling” year for the Anaheim Ducks, the club has been up and down thus far this season. After starting off hot and putting defense first, the Ducks enjoyed early-season success. However, there has been a significant drop-off, especially in the past 10 games.
The Ducks have had trouble keeping the puck out of their net and conversely, have had trouble putting the puck in their opponent’s net. After a solid team effort in a 3-0 win last Monday against the hottest team in the league, the New York Islanders (17 game points streak), the Ducks showed what team they can be when everyone is contributing and on their game.
The club then followed it up with a bitter 4-3 shootout loss to the Arizona Coyotes, and a dismal showing against the visiting Winnipeg Jets this past Friday at home, where it was shutout for the first time this season. Failing to execute and sloppiness was readily apparent against the Jets.
If the Ducks want to defeat the Los Angeles Kings, they will need to be better all over the ice.
Where the Kings (11-14-2, 24 pts.) & Ducks (11-12-4, 26 pts.) stand
Based on the last 10 games, both teams seem headed in opposite directions. The Ducks have gone 2-5-3 while the Kings have gone 6-3-1. Lately, the Kings have received contributions from everyone across the lineup offensively, which has helped them come back in games and close games.
The Kings’ goaltending has also been better as of late, as Jonathan Quick and Jack Campbell have recovered from some embarrassing early-season losses. In the last 10 games, they have only given more than three goals in only two games, both against the San Jose Sharks. Cleaning up things defensively and committing to a defensive mentality, which was a staple of past Kings’ Championship teams, has given them recent success.
Meanwhile, the Ducks have given up more than three goals in their past 10 games. This has spelled trouble for them, especially when they cannot generate enough scoring. Late game collapses against the Detroit Red Wings at home and on the road against the Florida Panthers have also resulted in the Ducks’ losing critical points in the standings.
Despite the Ducks’ struggles and Kings’ recent success, they still rank 3rd and last respectively in the Western Conference. Neither team is out of the playoff picture by any means, but winning this game should mean a lot for either club.
Whenever the Ducks and Kings play, you can bet it is going to be one full of high energy and emotion for players and fans.
Interesting Facts & Notes
- The Kings have only won 2 of their 12 road games this season (2-9-1).
- The Ducks have lost 6 of their last 7 home games (1-4-2).
- The Ducks have not won a game this season when outshooting the opposition; the Kings have won 9 such games.
- Both captains lead their teams in scoring.
- The Ducks and Kings both rank in the bottom third in the power play (up a player) and penalty kill (down a player).
- Power Play
- Ducks – 30th (10.0%)
- Kings – 29th (11.8%)
- Penalty Kill
- Ducks – 24th (76.7%)
- Kings – 26th (75.6%)
- Power Play
Anaheim Ducks’ Three Keys to the Game
Winning the Special Teams Battle
Far too often this season, the Ducks have found themselves on the wrong end of games because of losing the special teams. Whether that means giving a power play goal while on the penalty kill or failing to score on power plays of the own, it does not matter.
First, when the Ducks get opportunities on the power play, they need to bury them. That means getting second, third, and fourth chances after the first shot has been fired. Puck retrieval is critical to getting those chances. Keep things simple and do not play hot potato with the puck. Pass a few times, get a good look, and fire. Generate more scoring chances, and you’ll eventually get one.
And shoot one-timers for god sakes when you have no defender near you. Personally, I think Getzlaf has the most powerful slap shot on the team and could really do some damage rather than quarterbacking the power play. He should be set up “in his office” on the top of the right faceoff dot like the Capitals’ Alex Ovechkin does.
Second, the Ducks need to clog the neutral zone on the penalty kill and not allow the Kings to gather speed as they come into their zone. Forechecking in the Kings’ defensive zone when possible and challenging play at the blueline will make things difficult. If the Kings enter the Ducks’ defensive zone with too much speed, they will be able to set up their power play with greater ease, leading to more offensive opportunities.
Shoot, shoot, shoot
The Ducks are 27th in the NHL in terms of shots on goal/game at 29.1 while the Kings give up the fewest shots against/game at 28.4. Something has got to give here. For the Ducks, it makes it that much more important to shoot the puck when you are able.
Do not pass up opportunities to shoot especially when in close. in the previous game against the Jets, there was a glorious chance for Ducks’ young winger Troy Terry to shoot when he was within a foot of the net. Instead, he elected to pass it over to one of his teammates who was blocked by a Jets’ defender. Unsurprisingly, the Ducks failed to score there.
Ever hear of the saying by the legendary Wayne Gretzky, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take”? Well, that applies here. The Ducks need to shoot as much as possible against the Kings to maximize the opportunities they get, especially when they are in the high and low slot areas.
You are usually shooting more if you are possessing the puck in your opponents’ zone, so it is imperative the Ducks get the puck to the net, create chaos in front of the net and goaltender, and who knows, maybe the Ducks will punch in a rebound or two.
Getting those “dirty” goals is key, especially against a gritty, hard-nosed team like the Kings.
Neutralize Anze Kopitar
The Kings’ captain is their most effective player and best playmaker. Not only that, he is the Kings’ best two way forward. Like Getzlaf, Kopitar is still expected to shoulder a huge offensive and defensive load as well as guide the young players.
The Kings usually go as Kopitar goes. If the Ducks can keep him off the scoresheet, I really like their chances of winning this game. However, if Kopitar is able to set his teammates up and get open looks to shoot at either John Gibson or Ryan Miller, the Ducks will be in for a long night.
Prediction: The Ducks and Kings will trade jabs back and forth like a boxing fight, trading goals. The Ducks will generate a season-high 40 shots on goal and put relentless offensive pressure on the Kings’ defense and goaltending. In the end, the Ducks’ effort will pay off with a late third-period goal and they will hold on for the victory. Ducks win 4-3 in regulation.
Projected Starting Lineups
Rickard Rakell — Ryan Getzlaf — Troy Terry
Max Jones — Adam Henrique — Jakob Silfverberg
Devin Shore — Sam Steel — Ondrej Kase
Nicolas Deslauriers — Derek Grant — Carter Rowney
Brendan Guhle — Hampus Lindholm
Erik Gudbrandson — Cam Fowler
Josh Mahura — Michael Del Zotto
Scratched: Nick Ritchie, Korbinian Holzer
Injured: Josh Manson (knee)
Alex Iafallo — Anze Kopitar — Dustin Brown
Adrian Kempe — Blake Lizotte — Austin Wagner
Jeff Carter — Michael Amadio — Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford — Nikolai Prokhorkin — Trevor Lewis
Ben Hutton — Drew Doughty
Paul LaDue — Sean Walker
Joakim Ryan — Matt Roy
Scratched: Ilya Kovalchuk, Kurtis MacDermid, Matt Luff
Injured: Alec Martinez (wrist), Derek Forbort (back)