Clinging to slim playoff hopes, Kings face rival Ducks

NHL Hockey

Essentially neighbors, the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings will get to know each other even better this week.

The Southern California teams are scheduled to play four times in six days, starting with their first meeting on Monday night in Los Angeles.

The Ducks (14-27-7, 35 points) quit thinking about the playoffs weeks ago, but the next four games could make or break the slim playoff hopes for the Kings (17-22-6, 40 points).

“We’ve got four straight games, eight points, against our rivals down the road,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “We want to make good on all eight points.”

The Kings would be in a much better position if they didn’t lose their past two games to fall seven points back of fourth place in the West Division with 11 games remaining.

After defeating the Ducks 4-1 on Tuesday, the Kings had moved within five points of fourth place, but they lost to the visiting Minnesota Wild 4-2 on Friday and then suffered an even more damaging loss on Saturday, falling 4-0 to the visiting Arizona Coyotes.

The victory leapfrogged the Coyotes over the St. Louis Blues into fourth place, while pushing the Kings further out of a playoff spot with the window closing fast.

McLellan sent a message to his players during his postgame media availability on Saturday night.

“Everybody’s asking for more, wants more; well, let’s see it from you,” McLellan said. “That should be a real good motivating factor for everybody that’s in the lineup, from the older player on down through the youngest player.”

The Ducks continue to fall further in the overall standings. Anaheim has lost four consecutive games and had the third-fewest points in the league entering Sunday.

The Ducks have also scored the fewest goals in the NHL (105) and they aren’t getting any better. They have combined for four goals in the past four games.

The Ducks are also missing some key players.

They played their first game since right wing Jakob Silfverberg underwent season-ending hip surgery on Thursday. The Ducks were also without one of their top defenseman, Josh Manson, who suffered an apparent head injury during a fight with Brendan Lemieux in the loss to the Kings last week.

Anaheim captain Ryan Getzlaf also left Saturday’s game with an upper-body injury, but he should be back on Monday.

With this season counting down its final games, many are looking to the future in Anaheim, one that might not include Getzlaf, who turns 36 next month with a contract expires at the end of this season.

David Backes, a 15-year veteran who is also likely winding down his brief stay in Anaheim, said the Ducks should be able to develop more camaraderie and togetherness once pandemic restrictions are lifted, which should help their on-ice performance.

“You’re playing for the guy next to you, rather than just playing to show off your skills,” Backes said. “You’ve got to be willing to do whatever it takes to help the guy next to you, and when that sort of environment can be cultivated a lot better in a non-pandemic time — hopefully that’s in the very, very, very near future — I think this team can make that next step and really be a threat and show off those talented bodies that are in the pipeline.”

–Field Level Media

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