WHO: Los Angeles Kings (42-27-10) vs. Anaheim Ducks (30-34-14)
THAN: NHL REGULAR SEASON GAME
WHEN: Saturday, April 23 at 7:30 p.m. Pacific
WHERE: Crypto.com Arena – Los Angeles, CA
HOW TO FOLLOW: VIDEO: West Bally Sports – SOUND – Radio iHeart – TWITTER: @DooleyLAK & @LAKings
TONIGHT’S GAME: It’s the last home game of the season in Los Angeles, as the Kings host the Ducks in another edition of the Freeway Faceoff.
HEAD TO HEAD: The Kings have earned at least one point in their first three head-to-head meetings this season, going 2-0-1 against the Ducks so far this season. Forwards Adrian Kempe (4-1-5) and Anze Kopitar (1-4-5) lead the Kings with five points apiece this season against Anaheim. Kempe has 10 goals in his last 10 games against the Ducks and has scored in each of three games played so far this season.
LIFE OF KINGS: The Kings wrap up the home portion of their regular season schedule tonight when they host the Ducks for Fan Appreciation Night. The Kings can’t clinch a postseason spot tonight, but they can get within two points of doing so with a win tonight.
Goalkeeper Jonathan Quick is set to make his sixth consecutive start tonight. Quick has stepped into the starting role of late through his performances, with three straight wins coming into tonight’s action, including a 29-save victory over Anaheim on Tuesday. Quick is 26-13-9 all-time against the Ducks, with a .912 save percentage and a 2.37 goals-against average. Since the 2018-19 season, Quick is 7-1-1 against Anaheim with a .933 SV% and a 1.87 GAA, the top three against a single opponent in that span.
Following an all-team practice yesterday, this morning’s skating was optional for the Kings at the Toyota Sports Performance Center.
LA opted to make two lineup changes between Tuesday and Thursday games, with the duo of Carl Grundstrom and Quinton Byfield checking in at the forward position, instead of Brendan Lemieux and Rasmus Kupari. Those changes look consistent with this morning’s lineups on the ice, so expect to see the same lineup there.
With the entire pack off the ice, there are no specific line races, but here’s how the pack lined up on Thursday, with the expectation of a similar lineup today:
Iafallo – Lizotte – Brown
Moverare – Durzi
Kupari and Lemieux are available if the Kings opt to make a trade, as are forwards Lias Andersson and Gabe Vilardi. In the background, defensemen Mikey Anderson, Tobias Bjornfot, Troy Stecher and Austin Strand skated but are not expected to play. Anderson continues to recover from an upper body injury and has practiced for almost a week, but tonight he is not an option against the Ducks.
VITAL OF DUCKS: Anaheim enters tonight’s game with 17 losses from their last 20 games played going 3-12-5 in those contests. In the 17 losses, the Ducks have scored 3 or fewer goals, allowing 4 or more goals for 12 in that span.
There are no reports from Anaheim on which goalie will get the nod tonight. If the Ducks return to John Gibson, who was at the net when these two teams met Tuesday, he will bring with him a career record of 14-9-0 against the Kings, with a .919 save percentage and an average of . 2.34 goals against. . If the visitors turn to Anthony Stolarz, he has made four appearances in his career against the Kings, going 0-2-1 with a .917 save percentage and a 2.34 goals-against average.
According to the Anaheim team account, here’s how the Ducks lined up the last time they faced the Kings on Tuesday:
— Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) April 20, 2022
Forward Sam Carrick (lower body injury) and defender Urho Vaakanainen (non-COVID-related illness) missed the last game but have not been ruled out for tonight. Forwards Jakob Silfverberg and Max Jones are on long-term injured reserve and will not play tonight.
Close but not there yet
The Kings are close to the postseason. You can almost feel the postseason. But the Kings aren’t in the postseason yet.
Two wins in their last three games will get them there, starting tonight against Anaheim. A win and two loss from Las Vegas would do it too, but that creates a situation out of their control. The Kings can’t win two games tonight and Las Vegas isn’t playing, so there’s no chance of a walk tonight. The Kings can only win the game against them and they have put themselves in a good head position.
“It feels good, there are three games left, but I feel like we are in a good position,” striker Adrian Kempe said this morning. “Obviously it’s going to be tight until the end, but this is what you play for all year. These games are the most fun games to play, we have an important game tonight and if we can get a good result there we will put ourselves in a better position. We are in a good place, but the work is not done.”
Kempe knows the task at hand, both in the big picture of the next six days, but also in the next 60 minutes.
Ducks: Kings games are usually hotly contested, regardless of the position of both teams. The Ducks also play for their captain, who will face the Kings tonight for the last time of his career. More on that below. Kempe, however, is focused on the task at hand and tonight’s game against the Ducks.
“There aren’t that many games left and we’re in the best position of the three teams (Kings, Golden Knights, Canucks),” Kempe said. Against Anaheim as well, we know it’s always a tight game, we have to stick to the game plan that we’ve had, play a solid 60 minutes… that’s what we need tonight.”
Win your games, good things will happen. The Kings can create a bedroom situation here tonight and that’s exactly what they intend to do.
Addition of Athanasiou
We’ve talked about the consistency of the back row since joining now six games earlier, and now we can talk about the revamped front row in the last three games, which coincided with Andreas Athanasiou’s return from injury.
The line scored twice against Chicago on Thursday, with Athanasiou scoring on a breakaway, in addition to Anze Kopitar’s deflection goal. They also scored Tuesday in Anaheim through Adrian Kempe, totaling three goals in three games since Athanasiou returned from injury.
Speaking to Kempe today, he has enjoyed Athanasiou’s game since he returned, playing together in a line for the first time.
“He’s been great since he came back,” Kempe said. “I haven’t really played him since he’s been here, maybe just a couple of games, but he’s done a great job. He is super skilled, super fast and makes a lot of plays, he takes a lot of penalties. He’s fun to play with and fits that line very well, he creates a lot of opportunities. You definitely notice, since he came back from injury, that he wants to prove himself, especially being on the top lane. He’s done a great job and it’s fun to play with him.”
While in terms of shot attempts, that line has been more or less even, it’s been the most dangerous areas where they’ve controlled things, despite the smaller sample size.
That combination of men whose names begin with A has controlled nearly 59 per cent of scoring opportunities and more than 65 per cent of high-danger chances. They have also allowed just one goal in 5v5 during those nine spells.
Athanasiou has proven to be an exception to McLellan’s usual thought process with players returning to action. He has shown the ability to come back and play, with his speed and skill shining through him.
“It definitely is and we’ve kind of singled out AA when it comes to his comeback, it could happen quicker, because he’s got that skill set, that good, fast, flowing hand skill set, where he can get it back quickly.” MacLellan said. “There are others that play the game a little bit differently and it can take a little bit longer, their physicality and the ability to play in traffic, I think some of those guys take a little bit longer, but the way they AA is built, gets it back faster and helps our team. I think it’s evident in Kopi’s lineup right now.”
McLellan called Athanasiou an X factor down the stretch, admitting he has the ability to be among the best players in the NHL. With the Kings looking for production from that top line, in a small sample size, Athanasiou has provided it. He is motivated from both an individual and team perspective, with a huge opportunity in front of him down the stretch.
“He’s so talented, he has so much skill and ability,” McLellan added. “We’ll see how it goes, it’s important for him as an individual to play well at the moment, not just for the team.”
The last Getzlaf games
Lastly, tonight marks the last game of Ryan Getzlaf’s career against the Kings, with the long-time Anaheim center set to play in his final NHL game at home tomorrow.
Since Getzlaf entered the league in the 2005-06 season, no player has racked up more points against the Kings than he has. He is in the Top 3 in that span, along with the San Jose duo of Joe Thornton and Patrick Marleau, in terms of assists and points. Tonight, he will face his old rivals Kopitar, Brown and Quick for the last time, his 79th overall appearance against the Kings.
A tremendous career for Getzlaf, a career that spanned more than 1,100 games and saw more than 1,000 points accumulated. He is a Stanley Cup champion, a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a three-time NHL All-Star and a one-time All-NHL team honoree. A great race, which is worthy of applause tonight.
Kopitar in Getzlaf
We’ve obviously had some good battles over the course of what, 16 years now? Yeah, the amount of respect I have for him is huge, he’s a Stanley Cup champion, multiple Olympic golds. The amount of work he has done for that organization is tremendous and he deserves all the praise. When it’s time, I’m sure we’ll catch up and have a little chat about everything.
Kempe in Getzlaf
He’s up there, he’s been there forever, one of the best players in Ducks history. He commands a lot of respect, he and Kopi are on the same level in terms of that kind of thing. He’s been solid for so many years, he’s obviously coming to an end, but he’s been fun to play against, seeing the things he’s done with the Ducks over the years. A big part of the organization.
McLellan on Getzlaf
Hall of Fame player. I don’t sit on the Hall of Fame board, but if I had a vote, I know what I would write on my sheet. Maybe I’m a little biased, because he’s also a good guy from Saskatchewan, a Western League player, but an amazing run. He’s spent it all on a team, obviously, everything he’s done for hockey in Southern California and for the Ducks organization, the championship and all the other things he’s done as well. Hall of Famer without a doubt in my mind.
Kings and Ducks, tonight at 19:30! The last of 41 scheduled here in Los Angeles, Insiders, hopefully more to come!