As the regular season heads to a close, the Ducks and the Kings will meet on the ice at the Honda Center with a great amount at stake. Tonight's matchup is the last time that these two teams will meet during the regular season, and the Ducks have an excellent opportunity to both end the Kings' three game winning streak and put a significant dent in their playoff aspirations. Though the Kings are known for stumbling through the regular season before turning on the "charm" in the playoffs, as of today, they are in serious danger of becoming the eighth NHL defending Stanley Cup champion to miss the playoffs the subsequent season.
Let us hope that the Ducks can do this public service and lighten the Kings' bandwagon.
The Bruce Boudreau Starting Goalie Generator has become almost as unpredictable as the Bruce Boudreau Line Generator, but I anticipate that we'll see John Gibson starting in net tonight. Gibson made 20 saves during the last Ducks-Kings matchup, and had started the last three games for the Ducks. He has also given up two or fewer goals in six of his last seven starts.
Sami Vatanen might also hopefully/potentially/possibly be back. Vatanen practiced on Tuesday, and we may potentially see him back in the lineup after a 14 game lineup. He has been sorely missed. Despite his absence, he still leads all Ducks defensemen in points with 34 (which probably says a lot about our defense). He has also become something of a King Killer, scoring four points in this season's Ducks-Kings series. (As an aside, I think that Bruce Boudreau's reticence to break up the current defensive pairings in order to accommodate Vatanen to be absolutely ridiculous. I don't understand this team sometimes...).
What Can We Learn From This Game?:
We will learn if the Ducks' special teams will continue to improve. Despite the fact that the power play looked excellent against Nashville on Monday, the Ducks have an 11.1% conversion rate on the power play at home since the All-Star Break. Will they be able to climb out of the proverbial NHL cellar? (For some perspective, they are 3 for 33 in their last 16 games).
I feel like a broken record in this regard, but we will learn if the Ducks can play a consistent 60 minute game. The first period of the Nashville game was meh, the second was blah, and if it were not for this team's third period heroics, we would be looking at a very different outcome. As several of you have observed in the comments, our dependence last minute heroics does not bode well for a long playoff run.
Also, Corey Perry: Keep going to the net. It's what you were born to do.
Ryan Kesler has shone against the Kings this season (he has a team-best four points and six goals in the series), and I anticipate that he will not disappoint tonight. I anticipate a Gordie Howe hat trick from Kes.
Looking forward to a net-crashingly raucous game.