Saturday, April 9, 2011
Kings/Ducks: Still some sorting on the table
By Dan Arritt
Kings (46-29-6, 98 points) vs. Ducks (46-30-5, 97) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Just the facts – Here’s what we know heading into the final game of the regular season. The Kings and Ducks have clinched playoff berths in the same season for the first time, yet there’s no possibility they could meet in the first round. As it stands, the Kings are in sixth place and the Ducks in seventh, but both could finish as high as fourth with a victory and losses Saturday by Phoenix (at San Jose) and Nashville (at St. Louis). Each could also tumble down to eighth with a loss and a victory Sunday morning by Chicago (vs. Detroit).
2. Teeming with Teemu – In case you haven’t heard, there’s an anti-aging phenomenon taking place in Anaheim this spring and it's called Teemu Selanne. The 40-year-old flashy Fin scored two of the biggest goals of the season Friday night, lifting the Ducks to their playoff-clinching 2-1 victory against the Kings. Selanne has 31 goals this season, three more than the Kings’ highest scorer, Dustin Brown, including 10 in the last 10 games. He now has 50 goals in his career against the Kings and doesn’t appear to be slowing down.
3. Brown’s back – On the subject of Brown, the Kings received a scare when he was knocked down by Ducks defenseman Toni Lydman and winced as he gripped his left hand and left the ice. He immediately headed to the locker room but returned a few minutes later, much to the relief of a team that has already lost its two leading point scorers in the last three weeks. Brown assisted on the only goal against the Ducks, giving him points in nine of the last 14 games.
4. Ellis in a pinch – Ducks goalkeeper Dan Ellis stepped in on short notice and played well in the victory against Los Angeles. He stopped 23 shots, including a point-blank attempt by Wayne Simmonds that nearly provided the Kings a 2-0 first-period lead. Ray Emery sat out because of a lower-body injury and Jonas Hiller is still a question mark because of vertigo symptoms. Ellis appears to be the stopgap for now, but Ducks coach Randy Carlyle could have some tough decisions to make heading into the playoffs. Some onlookers believe Hiller should get the nod for this regular-season finale.
5. Clap on – The Kings have never been strong on the power play this season, but they’ve probably never been as weak as they are now. They’re scoreless on their last 15 man-advantage situations after finishing 0-for-3 against the Ducks. The loss of Anze Kopitar to a season-ending ankle injury seven games ago certainly hurt the power play, but the Kings went seven games without a power play goal when Kopitar was on the team in mid-January, so it seems more structure-related than personnel. Either way, the unit needs to get repaired in a hurry if the Kings want to get past the first round.