Friday, March 16, 2012
Kings/Ducks: Plenty at stake in this Freeway Faceoff
By Dan Arritt
Kings (33-25 -12, 78 points) vs. Ducks (30-30-11, 71 points) at Honda Center, 7 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. New identity – After a strong push that began in early January and carried into March, it looks like the Ducks have finally run out time to climb back from their dismal start. It's not mathematically official, but all signs indicate they've taken on the role of spoiler. Anaheim fans would like nothing more than to see their team put a dent in the Kings’ playoff hopes, and you can bet they'll loudly support such an endeavor. Just two days ago, the Kings had the same number of points as eighth-place San Jose. As they sat idle, other contenders added to their total, dropping the Kings three points back of the final playoff spot with 12 games to play.
2. Howdy Doughty – Following his worst four-game stretch of the season, and quite possibly his career, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty played his best game Tuesday night in a 5-2 victory against the Red Wings, getting a goal, an assist and finishing with a season-high plus-3 rating. He was a combined minus-6 in the previous four games. Of all the teams in the league, Doughty owns the best plus-minus rating against the Ducks (plus-10), yet they’re also the only Western Conference team he has not scored against during his four-year career.
3. Mr. Big Shot – Kings center Jeff Carter has been good as advertised since coming over from the Blue Jackets last month in exchange for defenseman Jack Johnson. After failing to register a point in his first three games with the Kings, he has five goals and two assists in the last six. Carter’s presence has been especially noticeable on the power play, where the Kings have scored on six of 20 man-advantage situations for a lofty 30 percent success rate. Carter has two of those power-play goals. He also started his recent hot streak against the Ducks, scoring two goals in a 4-2 victory on March 3.
4. More special team – Carter also has a high-profile role on the penalty-kill unit, which has snuffed out the last 32 man-advantage situations dating back to Feb. 22. It’s the second-longest streak of the season after the 42 straight they wiped out from Dec. 17 to Jan. 12. The Kings might be catching the Ducks at the right time. Normally one of the better power-play teams in the league, Anaheim has two power play goals in its last eight games to fall to 20th in the league in efficiency.
5. Duck soup – Ducks forward Corey Perry, last season’s Hart Memorial Trophy winner, missed the last two games with an injured right shoulder. He has 34 goals in 69 games this season, 20 coming since Jan. 4. With the Ducks no longer in the playoff hunt, don’t expect coach Bruce Boudreau to rush Perry back on the ice, especially against a physical team such as the Kings. Same goes for defenseman Luca Sbisa, who sat out the last two games with a lower-body injury. One player who doesn’t figure to get a break is goalie Jonas Hiller, who has started a franchise-record 30 straight games.