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Ducks @ Kings Game 4 Preview: Pivotal

I can't really say the Ducks are back in the series yet, but they can make it so by regaining home ice advantage tonight, while a loss here would be just as devastating as having dropped Game 3.

Harry How

What we learned from Game 3: Much like the previous two games, the Ducks played pretty solidly and the Kings still weren't exactly up to their potential, but it finally paid off.  The Kings' 55.6% advantage in Fenwick, though expected, was largely the result of the Ducks sitting back after their second goal, seemingly content to limit the quality of the Kings' chances just as the Kings had done to them in Game 2.

They came one broken Corey Perry stick away from truly closing out a game for only the third time in this post-season, which is a good sign.  But still as both Games 2 and 3 showed, this series is going to be heavily reliant on who scores first.  Just another reason to look back at Game 1 as the biggest disappointment of the season.

What needs to change for this game: It's well established at this point that to score on Jonathan Quick, the Ducks need to get to the net and they did a much better job of that in Game 3.  The second part of that is to get the pucks to the players who are in front.  The Kings blocked between 11 and 15 shots Thursday night (the box score says 11 but the difference between CF and FF is 15 ??)  and based on my memory of the replays a lot of those were stick blocks, as opposed to shots into shin pads. If that is indeed the case, that the Kings were blocking mostly with their sticks, it's a testament to their defense and a more difficult problem to solve, but getting more shots through with the same kind of net front presence would go a long way toward beating Quick.

As stated above, a lot will depend on who can get out to the lead first and if they can hold it, but I think we'd all like to see the Ducks play a little more aggressively and offensively if/when they do get a one goal lead in the second half of the game.  I don't know about anybody else, but for the majority of the third period i was trying to figure out how many times seven seconds divided into the remaining time on the clock.  The answer always came out as too many.

Other than that, the Ducks have played pretty well in this series and could just as easily be up 2-1 so they should continue to do what they've been doing and see how Daryl Sutter adjusts.

Roster changes: With Matt Beleskey, Frederik Andersen and Mathieu Perreault all listed as day-to-day there are bound to be some kind of changes to the Ducks lineup.

As of this writing no call-ups have been made official, but one would have to assume that John Gibson will be backing up Jonas Hiller.  Bruce Boudreau admitted that the only reason Andersen started Game 3 was his 2-0 record at Staples versus Hiller's 0-5-2.  While I don' think Hiller deserved to be pulled based on his play in the first two games of the series and that may not be the most rational reason for a goalie change, I was ok with it because it was a proactive decision.  Making the change to Andersen after having fallen behind in Game 3 or, Heaven forbid losing Game 3, would have simply been too late. In any case Hiller should be back in and that shouldn't be cause for alarm to Ducks fans.

Up front, the two most logical inclusions for Beleskey and Perreault would be Daniel Winnik and Rickard Rakell, respectively.  But it does beg the question of how the lines will be set up.  The cleanest way to do it would be for Nick Bonino to move up to Perreault's spot between Patrick Maroon and Teemu Selanne while Rakell replaces him on the fourth line and Winnik to go one-for-one replacing Beleskey on the top line or slot into the fourth and move Kyle Palmieri up.

Reuniting the Winnik, Koivu, Andrew Cogliano line would be interesting in that it could free up Jacob Silfverberg for a more offensive role when being paired with the largely sheltered minutes of Rakell or Selanne or even a shot with the twins.  If that's the decided course of action, I would probably put Silfverberg with Bonino and Selanne and move Maroon up, considering how well he's been able to work with Perry and Getzlaf on the power play recently and it's seemingly been a while since Boudreau tried Palmieri up top.

As for the Kings, neither Willie Mitchell or Robyn Regehr seem to be on their way back, so expect a very similar lineup to Games 2 and 3.

Fearless prediction: Barring empty netters, this will be a one goal game.