Jonathan Quick

Ducks, Kings face off in the rivalry’s biggest game

Tonight’s game between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks is easily the biggest game in the 18-year-old rivalry. With 95 points, the Ducks are fighting for their playoff lives and can clinch a spot in the playoffs with a win against the I-5 rivals. On the other side of the rink, the Kings are trying to earn home-ice advantage in the 1st round of the playoffs for the first time since the 1991-92 season.

A win in tonight’s game by either team would go a long way towards each team reaching their goals.

People around the league, as well as in Southern California, have said the Kings/Ducks match-up would never truly reach its full potential until they were both good at the same time. The fact of matter is that there has never been a year when both the Ducks and Kings made the playoffs in the same season—let alone faced each other in the playoffs. But starting tonight, the teams will be playing in a game that has playoff implications for both. As Teemu Selanne noted to the LA Times, both teams being successful is good for hockey in the area:

“It has been unbelievable. We know the situation and so the last two games are going to be huge. It’s going to be fun. It’s like a mini-playoffs against them now.

“They clinched the playoffs and that’s awesome. That’s good for hockey here, so hopefully we both can be in there first time.”

 

Selanne is right: The home-and-home series to end the season is like a mini-playoff to finish out the year—but the games are far more important to the Ducks than they are to the Kings. The Kings have already punched their ticket to the dance and they’re just looking for a better dance partner. The Ducks still have work to get done if they want to make the dance as well. The easiest way to make the playoffs is simple: win. If the Ducks win either of their last two games against the Kings they’re in the playoffs. They can also make the playoffs if the Stars were to lose either of their final two games. They could even make the playoffs if they were to lose their final two games and the Stars win out—that is, if the Blackhawks were to lose their final two games in regulation against the Red Wings. There are plenty of scenarios, but everything can be simplified with this: win and they’re in.

Obviously, Anaheim is cutting it close with their playoff spot hanging in the balance in the last weekend of the season. But for hockey fans in California, this is what they’ve been waiting for. Bobby Ryan knows it:

“You always want to be a little more solidified going into the last two. But if there are any games to get ready for the playoffs, it’s certainly against the Kings. They bring out the best of us and I think we do likewise for them. It’s going to be a fun weekend.”

 

For the Kings, the stressful part of the stretch run was put to rest when they clinched their playoff spot against the Coyotes on Wednesday night. They can still finish anywhere from 4th – 8th place in the West—but at least they know they’ll be in the playoffs. One might expect the Kings to take their foot off the gas pedal now that they can relax, but each of the players said they are focused on the 4th seed and home-ice advantage. A pair of wins against the Ducks tonight and Saturday night would guarantee home-ice advantage for the first time in almost two decades. Currently sitting with 46 wins and 98 points, the Kings are one win away from setting a franchise record. The a win would also guarantee at least the 6th seed and would give the Kings their second consecutive 100-point season.

It’s not just the organization that has had a tough time earning the extra game at home. Ryan Smyth has never had home-ice advantage at any point in his eleven playoff appearances and is looking for the 4th seed:

“Any time you can get home ice in the playoffs, it’s crucial. That’s what you play the whole season for. It’s a big stepping stone for this hockey club. I think it dates back to when Gretz was there. That’s the last time they had home ice here, and I’ve never personally had home-ice advantage, so it would be nice to have that. That’s what you play the season for, and then after that you find out who you will play.”

 

Both teams have been doing everything they can to secure a playoff spot as of late. Lead by Hart Trophy candidate Corey Perry, the Ducks have gone 10-4 over their last 14 games and have five overtime wins over the last month. The Kings have fared slightly better with a 10-3-1 record over the same stretch of games even though they’ve lost their top two scorers during the run. Unfortunately for the Ducks, Ray Emery and his questionable status for tonight’s game means both teams could be dealing with injury concerns.

When speaking of the rivalry, Corey Perry called it, “two teams who don’t like each other during the regular season.” Well, the game tonight should have a little extra fuel on the fire as it’s the biggest game in the history of the rivalry. Then again, depending on how the game plays out tonight, tomorrow’s game could top it as the biggest game in the history of the rivalry.

Thank you schedule makers.

Scroll Down For:

    Report: Maple Leafs closing in on deal with Jhonas Enroth

    Los Angeles Kings goalie Jhonas Enroth, of Sweden, deflects a shot off the stick of a Colorado Avalanche player in the first period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in Denver. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
    AP Photo
    Leave a comment

    The Toronto Maple Leafs held on to Garret Sparks, signing him earlier this month to a two-way contract.

    But they may not be done there, as they look to find someone to fill the role of back-up to Frederik Andersen.

    On Sunday, a report from Expressen in Sweden — and put through Google Translate — began circulating that the Leafs are closing in on a deal with free agent goalie Jhonas Enroth, who turned 28 years old last month.

    It’s one report and the team has not confirmed or announced anything. But it’s something to keep an eye on over the next few days.

    Enroth posted a .922 save percentage last season with the L.A. Kings, appearing in only 16 games behind starter Jonathan Quick.

    Signed to a one-year deal worth $1.25 million with the Kings, his playing time was a source of contention, however, because Enroth seemed to be under the impression he would play more than he did in L.A.

    The back-up position in Toronto became available when the Leafs traded Jonathan Bernier to the Anaheim Ducks.

    Related: UFA of the Day: Jhonas Enroth

    Providence College product Schaller saw opportunity to play with Bruins, but challenges lie ahead

    BUFFALO, NY - JANUARY 15:  Tim Schaller #59 of the Buffalo Sabres skates against the Boston Bruins at First Niagara Center on January 15, 2016 in Buffalo, New York.  (Photo by Jen Fuller/NHLI via Getty Images)
    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    After spending the last three seasons in the Buffalo Sabres organization, Tim Schaller wasn’t going to resist the opportunity to sign with the Boston Bruins.

    A product of Providence College, the now 25-year-old Schaller, a center who provides size up the middle at six-foot-two-inches and 219 pounds, signed a one-year, two-way deal worth $600,000 at the NHL level with the Bruins as a free agent at the beginning of July.

    “We had probably about 10-12 teams calling on one day,” Schaller told the Boston Globe.

    “About halfway through the phone calls, Don Sweeney of the Boston Bruins called. At that moment, I almost told my agent, ‘Why take another phone call? Why not just say yes to the Bruins right away?’ It’s a good opportunity to have to play in Boston. All the numbers worked out perfectly to where it was impossible to say no to them.”

    The move helped to provide depth up the middle for the Bruins.

    Schaller has put up decent numbers in the minors, with 43 points in 65 games with the Rochester Americans in the 2014-15 season. In 35 NHL games with Buffalo, he had two goals and five points.

    However, earning a spot on the Bruins roster could be difficult.

    They have centers Patrice Bergeron and David Krejci, who had off-season surgery, Ryan Spooner and the additions of Riley Nash and David Backes as free agents.

    Backes can play wing in addition to center.

    “Boston was a good fit,” said Schaller. “We think I’m better than the prospects, so we thought it was a good fit. Hopefully I can beat out a bunch of guys for a job.”

    Being named Oilers captain would be ‘one of the greatest honors,’ says McDavid

    Connor McDavid
    AP Photo
    13 Comments

    It began gaining momentum well before Connor McDavid even finished his rookie season, the prospect that the young phenom had what it takes to become captain of the Edmonton Oilers.

    Wayne Gretzky had his say, in an interview with the National Post last season.

    “I have a great deal of respect for him. In my point of view, I think he’s mature enough that he can handle it at any age,” said The Great One, the Oilers captain when that franchise was a dynasty in the 1980s.

    McDavid’s highly anticipated rookie season was interrupted with a shoulder injury, but he returned to play in 45 games, with 48 points. He was named a finalist for the Calder Trophy, and there was plenty of healthy debate for his case to be the top freshman in the league.

    As his season continued and then ended, the talk of McDavid’s possible captaincy in Edmonton has persisted. The Oilers, who traded Taylor Hall last month, didn’t have a captain this past season.

    From Sportsnet’s Mark Spector, in April:

    Connor McDavid will be named as the Oilers’ captain at the age of 19 next fall, one of the items that was deduced at general manager Peter Chiarelli’s season-ending press briefing Sunday. Asked if his team would have a captain next season where this year it did not, the GM responded quickly: “I would think so, that we would have a captain next year.”

    At 19 years and 286 days, Avalanche forward Gabriel Landeskog became the youngest player in NHL history to be named a captain.

    McDavid, the first overall pick in 2015, doesn’t turn 20 years old until Jan. 13 of next year.

    He’s already the face of the Oilers and perhaps soon, the NHL, too. He certainly doesn’t seem to shy away from the potential of one day being named the Oilers captain.

    “Obviously. If I was ever the captain at any point I think it would be one of the greatest honors and one of the accomplishments that I would definitely take the most seriously,” McDavid told the Toronto Sun.

    “I don’t want to comment on it too much, but obviously it would be an unbelievable feeling.”

    Trevor Daley surprises young hockey players, firefighters with Stanley Cup visit

    4 Comments

    Trevor Daley had his day with the Stanley Cup on Saturday, taking it through Toronto, surprising young hockey players at a local rink and firefighters at a local station.

    He also held a private viewing party for family and friends inside a local bar, as per the Toronto Sun.

    Daley’s post-season came to an end in the Eastern Conference Final when he suffered a broken ankle. His absence tested the depth of the Penguins blue line as the playoffs pressed on, but Pittsburgh was ultimately able to power its way to a championship.

    When Sidney Crosby handed off the Stanley Cup, the first player it went to was Daley, whose mother was battling cancer.

    “He had been through some different playoffs, but getting hurt at the time he did, knowing how important it was, he had told me that he went [to see] his mom in between series and stuff, she wasn’t doing well, she wanted to see him with the Cup,” said Crosby, as per Sportsnet.

    “That was important to her. I think that kind of stuck with me after he told me that. We were motivated to get it for him, even though he had to watch.”

    Daley’s mother passed away just over a week later.