So..... Last night was fun, eh? Even though the New York Rangers clinched the Presidents' Trophy, it was the perfect storm of results to give the Ducks a chance to clinch the number one seed in the Western Conference tonight, and more importantly to push the Kings to the brink of elimination. Of course, before we Ducks fans start celebrating the demise of Los Angeles' playoff hopes yet, we need to remember just how close they were to elimination last year before facing and eventually eliminating the Ducks in embarrassing fashion.
As for the Ducks themselves, a win in regulation or overtime tonight would officially seal their position in the final standings, as the top team in the Western Conference. There are a number of other more complicated scenarios, in which the Ducks could still end up first in the West with a loss or shootout win tonight, but they all depend on what the St. Louis Blues do in their final two games (versus Chicago and Minnesota) and/or the result of the Ducks' season finale in Arizona and/or tiebreakers (possibly even beyond Regulation/Overtime Wins).
Barring the magumbo striking me down at some point later today, we can expect Ryan Getzlaf to be back in the lineup after having taken off Friday night's game against Colorado. Also two other faces we haven't seen in a little while, Matt Beleskey and Tim Jackman, may draw back into the lineup from injury. Beleskey hasn't played since March 28 on Long Island with a lower body injury while Jackman's last game action was against these very same Dallas Stars on March 1. Clayton Stoner has also been practicing early this week after having missed the last three games with a lower body injury (possibly a foot in his ass from that turnover in his last game against the Islanders).
Carrying 16 healthy(ish) forwards and potentially resting some sure fire starters for the playoffs makes for difficulty in predicting the line combos, but the Ducks' official site showed the following from yesterday's practice:
Beleskey - Getzlaf - Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano - Ryan Kesler - Jakob Silfverberg
Patrick Maroon - Nate Thompson - Jackman
Jiri Sekac - Rickard Rakell - Tomas Fleischmann - Kyle Palmieri
Emerson Etem - Chris Wagner - Stefan Noesen
While it's good to see Jackman getting healthy again, and he and Maroon are better than expected possession players, I'm not sure I like that line of pure beef against a team as quick and skilled as Dallas.
The Stars are fully healthy, but were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention thanks to the Winnipeg Jets' 2-0 shutout over Minnesota on Monday. That's right, Ondrej Pavelec posted two shutouts and the Kings lost to Edmonton within the past two days! But I digress....
What we can learn from this game:
I think we've all given up on trying to figure out the exact starting lineup for Game 1, so really it's all about staying healthy, locking in that number one seed and then grabbing the popcorn and seeing who ends up in the final wild card spot.
Ryan Garbutt will do something to make us all hate him even more than we already do.