Kings/Ducks: Stakes even higher this time around


Kings (29-23-12, 70 points) vs. Ducks (28-27-10, 66 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Must-win game – Neither team can afford to lose this one, not with eighth-place Dallas trying to separate itself from the pack by earning 11 points in the last six games. The Kings have had more down time than usual since winning in Minnesota, 4-0, on Tuesday, and enter this game three points back of the Stars. The Ducks scored in the final minute Friday night to defeat visiting Calgary, 3-2, and stay within seven points of Dallas. The Ducks also passed Minnesota in the standings with the win, leaving one less team between them and eighth place.

2. Shooting their foot – Two of L.A.’s four shootout victories this season have come against the Ducks. Of course, that was before Anaheim started its 2012 tear. Shootouts have played a key role for the Kings the last two seasons. They went 10-2 in shootouts last season, including a perfect 10-0 for No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick. If they go 7-5 in shootouts last season, they don't make the playoffs. This season, well, they’re 4-7, including a 4-6 mark by Quick. The way these teams know each other like the curve in their sticks, don't be surprised if this game ventures past regulation too.

3. Super Slava – Kings rookie defenseman Slava Voynov continues to make the Jack Johnson-for-Jeff Carter trade look better and better for L.A. He’s plus-3 with an assist since getting the call last week to fill Johnson’s spot on the blue line. His plus-7 in 36 games overall is best among Kings' defensemen. Not bad for someone who just turned 22 six weeks ago. He’s already shown a knack for scoring against the Ducks too, getting two of his four goals this season against Anaheim.

4. Hungry man – Staying on the subject of Carter, nobody is more eager to hit the back of the net than this guy. He hasn’t produced a goal or assist since arriving in L.A., and it will undoubtdedly take just a couple more games before fans start wondering if he caught the scoring jinx that has affected the rest of the team this season. Kings coach Darryl Sutter is giving him a prime spot on the power play with Mike Richards, and the unit is showing some life lately, so don't be surprised to see Carter notch his first with the man advantage.

5. Missing the point – Ducks forward Jason Blake hasn’t played against the Kings this season. He missed three months after suffering a severe gash to his forearm in the third game of the season. Blake’s return has coincided with the Ducks turnaround, but he hasn’t exactly been carrying the team on his back. He has gone the last 10 games without scoring a goal, his longest goal-less streak in two years, and has produced just two points in his last 17 games. Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau obviously must like something the 38-year-old veteran is doing, or he wouldn't keep sending him over the boards. His stopwatch must be ticking though.