Tonight marks the third of five meetings between the freeway rivals, the Anaheim Ducks and the Los Angeles Kings. Each team has tallied three total points in the previous two meetings this season, winning when in their home building, and losing in overtime (Ducks) or a shootout (Kings) when away. No matter how solid the Ducks look or how consistent their play has been, it feels like everything goes out the window when playing the Kings, especially when facing them at the Staples Center.
The Kings will kick off the night with a ceremony retiring Rob Blake's number Four to the rafters. Due to this planned tribute, the puck drop is expected to be pushed to 8pm. Anyone else feel like the scheduling of Blake's number retirement so soon after Anaheim retired Selanne's number can't just be a coincidence? Well, the Kings won't every settle with feeling outdone so who knows what spectacle they have planned.
Anaheim has built momentum with three consecutive wins, two of which were by a margin of four goals. The Ducks have looked pretty solid the past couple of games with better defensive plays than most of the early season, and some players stepping up in big ways, including Corey Perry shaking off the rust with a hat trick versus Toronto, and Jakob Silfverberg potting two goals against the New Jersey Devils. The team seems to be falling into a good rhythm, and now that they aren't nearly as plagued by injuries and illnesses the chemistry has really begun to build between the lines which also require much less juggling than before [Ed. Note: unless there's another mystery scratch, like Matt Beleskey on Wednesday. -CK].
Anaheim's only noteworthy injury is still Eric Brewer, who has fallen into my "superfluous defenders" column lately considering how good the blue line roster has looked of late. Hampus Lindholm, the boy wonder, has been shining both defensively with his amazing skating and puckhandling skills, as well as offensively with three points in the past two games alone. Also, playing alongside reliable work horse Francois Beauchemin has given Lindholm the freedom to potentially jump into the play or create odd-man rushes. The defensive pairing of Clayton Stoner and Sami Vatanen has also been a pretty fantastic duo, but that's something I've come to know, love, and even expect.
For the Los Angeles Kings, they will be undoubtedly without Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson who are sidelined for mononucleosis and a leg injury (which requires surgery) respectively. However, there is a chance that Robin Regehr will make his long-awaited return to the lineup after missing more than four weeks with a finger injury. Of course, Slava Voynov will not be dressing considering his indefinite suspension, and with his absence I don't doubt that Kings fans are just waiting for Regehr's return to help out Drew Doughty back on the blue line.
Some noteworthy streaks include captain Ryan Getzlaf has scored an impressive 29 points (7+22=29) in the past 21 games played, as well as linemate, Corey Perry, who potted four goals in Anaheim's past two games (they were four consecutive goals spanning two games). Jakob Silfverberg broke a 12-game point drought in a big way with a two-goal night versus the Devils, while Ryan Kesler hasn't tallied a point in the previous five games, and no goals in the past nine games dating back to the 2014 calendar year.
What Can We Learn From This Game:
One of the biggest question marks that has haunted the Ducks this entire season (and most of last season) is the unpredictable and unreliable power play performance. The previous two matchups between the Ducks and the Kings have a combined total of five opportunities for Anaheim on the PP, yet the Ducks have yet to score a goal with the extra man against the LA Kings this season.
Can Anaheim close out a game in regulation? Both of the previous games against the Kings this season have required extra minutes, one was decided in overtime, while the other required a shootout to determine a victor.
Will the Ducks' top stars, including the likes of Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, and Ryan Kesler, lead the team on the scoreboard or will younger players prove that the secondary scoring is still thriving and contributing? The first matchup between the Ducks and Kings this season took place at Honda Center, with Ryan Kesler the most influential Duck of the night, tallying three points (2+1=3),four shots, and a team-leading eight hits. On the contrary, the second matchup between the two Southern California teams, had six different Ducks tallying a single point that night, however no one on Anaheim's roster scored more than that one point.
Finally, will Ryan Kesler continue to be a single-handed threat against the Kings? This season alone, he has tallied the most points by any Anaheim player, with a total of four (3+1=4), alongside nine hits. Very impressive numbers, especially when considering how clutch he was in the comeback win in Anaheim, when the Ducks trailed by two goals on three separate occasions in the same game, despite dominating in just about every other aspect of the game. Kesler's stellar performance is what carried them to come from behind and not only tie the game, but then also scored the second goal in the shootout that solidified the two-points for Anaheim and a hard-fought win.
Ryan Kesler is the next player to break the scoring drought, and he does it in a hugely dramatic way. My prediction? Kes tallies a Gordie Howe hat trick in the first half of the game. Then polishes off a standard hat trick by the end of regulation, concluding the night with three goals, one assist, one fight, and roughly a dozen hits. (...or maybe I'm combining the statistics that are combining Anaheim #17 with #15 and #19)