January 17 marks the latest date on the calendar during a full length regular season that the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings have met for the first time in a campaign. While in 1998 it was game 47 for the Mighty Ducks and game 44 for the Angelenos, this meeting has much greater bearing on the standings with Anaheim three points back of the final Pacific Division playoff spot. Think LA wants to keep their southern rivals as far from that as possible, 12 points clear of them they may be?
Ducks: Friday, January 15 vs Dallas (4-1 W) "Ducks Acquire David Perron, Adam Clendening From Penguins For Carl Hagelin"
Kings: Saturday, January 16 vs Ottawa (3-5 L) "Kings Bleep Bleep Lose To The Sens"
Could it be that maybe, just maybe, the Ducks continued dominance in terms of shot attempts, scoring chances, and high danger chances is finally starting to translate to the scoreboard? Anaheim has put up four goals four times on the current home stand, and are averaging 2.57 goals per game- that'd be good for 16th in the league if they had that level of production over the entire regular season- and certainly look good next to their 2.33 average goals against. The second line's emergence has been a developing storyline, now the question is whether or not they can keep it up with the addition of David Perron. There's plenty of deeper analysis that suggests Perron may fit better with Ryan Kesler and Jakob Silfverberg than his recent teammates if that's indeed where he slots. Also anecdotally, with the majority of his career success taking place in the Western Conference, and the incentive of needing to earn his next contract, #57 in orange will be a player to watch. Heck of a game to make a debut with a new club in, eh?
The last two seasons Anaheim is 8-0-2 against LA, but just three of those games have been decided in regulation. Last year the full season series totals had the Ducks with the better in even strength goals (13-8), shots (135-121), shot attempt percentage (51.0), scoring chance percentage (56.0), and high danger percentage (67.0). This was a complete flip from the previous year, when Anaheim got dominated in five-on-five shots (79-135), SAT% (65.1), SC% (62.9), and HSC% (61.7). Considering both teams are top three in SAT%, as well top five in SC% and HSC%, it'll be interesting to see if the Ducks can continue the trend against a possession juggernaut- especially after handcuffing the league's top offense in their most recent game.
When it comes to players who seem to rise to the occasion against LA, Kesler is a great bet as he put up five goals (with two game-winners) and two assists in his first five games against the Kings in a Ducks sweater. Corey Perry's nine goals (three gamers) and seven assists in 24 games give him the most scores as well as points against LA in the last five years, while Ryan Getzlaf has five goals and 11 assists in 24 games. Perhaps an under the radar player to keep an eye on is Andrew Cogliano, who has four goals and five assists in 20 games, or maybe Patrick Maroon, with three goals (two winners) and three assists in nine tangles with the Angelenos.
Though Los Angeles is the tallest (vertically challenged person) in the punchline that is the Pacific Division, their 57 points through 43 games rank them at fifth overall in the league, puts them on pace for their second ever division title, and 109 points which would be the most in their 48 year history. Seven players have 20 or more points, four have ten or more goals, and nine have ten or more assists. The defense is on pace to allow 181 goals against, the third lowest full season total in franchise history- the only other two lower years were big trophy years. This year's edition of the Kings may well be, and is on pace to become the best they've ever assembled.
It's been since 2013 that the silver and black have won at Honda Center, with the last coming in a shootout during the 13-14 season, and the last in regulation in 12-13. This, however, is a year where the roles are reversed with the Kings comfortably atop the Pacific Division, while Anaheim is the team struggling to keep pace in the playoff picture. Anze Kopitar has been re-signed to an eight-year contract extension (read about it at JFTC here) and has been the team's horse both on offense and defense, while Tyler Toffoli has followed up his 23 goal previous season with a pace to hit the 40 goal plateau this year. Offseason acquisition Milan Lucic is fourth on the team in points, Drew Doughty can play forever (third in the league averaging 27:55 a game), and Jonathan Quick has improved his save percentage for a fourth straight season since back surgery following his other-worldly 11-12 campaign.
Kopitar has been LA's best weapon against the Ducks, with 13 goals (two winners) and 12 assists, the highest scoring player over the past five seasons of Freeway Faceoff games by a nine point margin. Doughty has the most assists with 14 in his 25 games played, while despite not doing much the past two seasons Dustin Brown has ten goals and seven assists in 25 games. Jeff Carter has six goals and an assist in 16 games, and an unsung player to watch out for is Trevor Lewis, who has two goals and two assists in his last nine games against Anaheim.
Two hours before face off we'll have the game thread up, featuring the full Stat Pack, and of course your Numbers For Nerds.