This game had the potential to be incredibly intense. The Ducks could have been fighting to keep their hopes of winning the Pacific Division alive while getting a glimpse of the epic playoff battle that would be ahead of them if they didn't. However, they won the division on Wednesday night and now can just clinch the top spot in the Western conference (and a first round match up with the Dallas Stars) almost by default with a point in either of their final two games. So, there isn't a whole lot riding on this one, which is relaxing.
Teemu Selanne and Saku Koivu will both sit out, resting for the playoffs. But let's be honest, with the deal in place of Teemu not playing both ends of a back to back this season, the only way he would have played in this game was if it was do-or-die to make the playoffs.
On the Kings' side, Drew Doughty has missed their last three games with a bruised left shoulder, and may or may not be back in the lineup for what is their final game of the season as a warm up for LA's upcoming bloodbath with San Jose.
Keys to the Game: Pretty simple, really. Do exactly the same thing as Wednesday night against San Jose. Of course, that's easier said than done, as the Ducks had everything to play for in that game and have shown a tendency to drop their level of play when the stakes are lower, as they are tonight.
If they need to tell themselves that this is a rivalry game, to make it seem like it has some kind of importance and play the right way, then so be it. The key will be to not take it too far in one direction or another.
The theme of the game, and the message from the coaching staff should be "Play Smart." That goes for both maintaining good habits leading into the playoffs and even more importantly, not putting yourself in a position to get hurt.
What Can We Learn From this Game: Probably the most interesting part of this game is the Ducks' goaltending situation. As we all know, Jonas Hiller has played pretty terrible lately, John Gibson has been good in his first two career starts, with a lot of help from his defense and Frederik Andersen is on the mend.
Bruce Boudreau's comments after practice yesterday seem to indicate that Andersen will be in net for one of the games this weekend. So, if I'm reading the situation right, I would expect Gibson to be sent down to try and get Norfolk back into the playoff picture in their remaining four games, Hiller to get his chance at proving he's on his game tonight and Andersen to get a warm up start tomorrow. Then Bruce will be able to decide who starts Game One based on how Hiller acquits himself and how healthy Andersen feels.
It seems like the situation is ripe for a goalie controversy, but the plan above would seem to calm all of that down. And even if one or the other puts up a dud of a performance, that just makes the decision easier.
Fearless Prediction: Between the two broadcasts, the fact that the three California teams are atop the Pacific Division will be mentioned roughly 8 Billion times.
Stay tuned here for updates throughout the day (lineup news, etc.) and start commenting. We'll have a quick stats pack shortly before puck drop for the in-game comments to flow.