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.

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    The Buzzer: Kopitar scores four, McDavid’s four-point night and Olczyk cancer-free

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    Players of the Night:

    Anze Kopitar, Los Angeles Kings: Two words: career night. Kopitar scored four goals, becoming the first Kings player in 25 years to do so, and thus, setting his own career-high in the process. The Kings decimated the Colorado Avalanche 7-1 in the process.

    Sergei Bobrovsky, Columbus Blue Jackets: Bobrovsky made 33 saves en route to a shutout victory, the Blue Jackets’ 10th in a row in a 4-0 win against the Florida Panthers, who have been red-hot themselves.

    Philipp Grubauer, Washington Capitals: Grubauer has been solid in relief of Braden Holtby down the stretch as the Capitals’ No. 1 gets some rest before a playoff push. He won his fourth start out of his past five since March 10, stopping all 39 shots that came his way in the shutout.

    Connor McDavid, Edmonton Oilers: He’s not playing for a playoff spot, and he shouldn’t get too many votes for the Hart Trophy. But McDavid still has his eyes set on Mr. Art Ross. McDavid had two goals and two assists in a 6-2 win for the Oilers over the Ottawa Senators on Thursday. McDavid’s 94 points  (36 goals, 58 assists) are now just one shy of Nikita Kucherov for the NHL lead.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Above all else, this:

    Hard work pays off:

    Kopitar’s fourth:

    Not everything is pretty when it comes to the Canucks. This is though:

    Factoids of the Night:

    Things you don’t see very often:

    Poor Cam Ward:


    Blue Jackets 4, Panthers 0

    Hurricanes 6, Coyotes 5

    Flyers 4, Rangers 3

    Lightning 7, Islanders 6

    Capitals 1, Red Wings 0

    Maple Leafs 5, Predators 2

    Oilers 6, Senators 2

    Canucks 5, Blackhawks 2

    Kings 7, Avalanche 1

    Sharks 2, Golden Knights 1 (OT)

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Sharks drop Golden Knights 2-1 in overtime

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    If the San Jose Sharks and the Vegas Golden Knights meet in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it’s fixing to be one hell of a series,

    Thursday’s meeting cemented that. The game had all the ingredients that make up that playoff feel — tight play, tight checking, great goaltending and low scoring. There was urgency from both teams, despite both being near locks to make the postseason.

    And it came right down to the last shot of the game.

    Logan Couture scored 39 seconds (ironically, Couture’s jersey number) into overtime to clinch a 2-1 win for the Sharks on Thursday night.

    The Sharks gained a single point on the Golden Knights and are seven points back of Vegas for first in the Pacific Division with eight games remaining. Perhaps most important, they remained four points clear of the Los Angeles Kings, who leapfrogged the Anaheim Ducks with a 7-1 win against Colorado. San Jose owns a game in hand on L.A.

    Catching up to Vegas seems unlikely, but stranger things have happened. The two teams play each other for the last time next week.

    The loss was bittersweet for the Golden Knights, who set record No. 2321778 for a club in their inaugural season.

    Malcolm Subban made 42 saves, a career-high after being thrust into action following an injury to Marc-Andre Fleury.

    Tomas Tartar got the ball rolling in the game 3:47 into the first period to give the Golden Knights an early lead.

    That lead lasted for roughly a period.

    Brent Burns tied the game 1-1 at 3:27 of the second period with the slickest of wrist shots from the point.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Eddie Olczyk declares he’s cancer-free


    It’s the news every hockey fan wanted to hear.

    On Thursday night’s Chicago Blackhawks broadcast on NBC Sports Chicago, Eddie Olczyk, who was diagnosed last summer with colon cancer, told the hockey world some great news.

    “I got the call on March 14 at 5:07 p.m. letting me know my scans were clear,” an emotional Olczyk said as he stood next to long-time broadcast partner Pat Foley. “I’ve never heard a better phrase in my life. I’m now 10 days on with the rest of my life.”

    Olczyk, 51, had surgery after his diagnosis and had his last chemotherapy treatment on Feb. 21.

    “All the cancer is gone – we beat this thing,” Olczyk said, thanking a handful of people, from colleagues at NBC to the Chicago Blackhawks and the NHL to his family members, wife and four kids. “And I say ‘we’ because it has been a team effort. We all beat this and I’m so thankful for all the support and prayers. They worked. I’m proud to stand here before everybody and say we beat this thing.”

    Foley called Olczyk’s battle with cancer, “heroic.”

    Olczyk was scheduled to have a scan in April to see how his chemo treatments had gone, but that scan was moved up due to emergency hernia surgery, according to Mark Lazerus of the Chicago Sun-Times.

    “I’ve had enough crying to last me a lifetime,” Olczyk said. “I can’t emphasize enough just the support out there… just the texts, the email, the letters. I’ve received thousands and thousands of mail. I won’t be able to thank everybody, but I just want everybody to know on behalf of Eddie Olczyk and his family, we’re forever grateful for the support and the prayers and well wishes we received over the past seven months.”

    Olczyk said one thing he realized through his battle is that he found out he was way tougher than he thought he ever was.

    “If I can inspire one person to stay away from this, then I guess it was well worth it going through it,” he said.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Grubauer, Capitals shut out Red Wings

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    If you were looking for a barn-burner, this game wasn’t that.

    While the Tampa Bay Lightning and New York Islanders combined for 13 goals, and the Carolina Hurricanes and Arizona Coyotes scored 11 in total, the Washington Capitals and their hosts, the Detroit Red Wings, played 60 minutes with just one goal between them.

    It wasn’t nearly as exciting in the goal-scoring department, but the win for the Washington Capitals put a bit of separation between themselves and the Pittsburgh Penguins and Columbus Blue Jackets, who the Caps (93 points) lead by four points now.

    Brett Conolly’s third-period marker at 6:41 was all the Capitals needed for their

    Andreas Athanasiou appeared to make it 1-0 in the first period on a nice wrister, but a goaltender interference challenge by Washington was successful after Tyler Bertuzzi was judged to have made contact with Grubauer. This one was pretty cut and dry, as far as GI calls go.

    The loss for the Red Wings meant they were officially eliminated from playoff contention, something that had been known for a while but hadn’t happened in the mathematical department.

    Grubauer was solid, making 39 saves for his third shutout of the season. At the other end of the rink, Jimmy Howard wasn’t too shabby either, stopping 25-of-26. All he needed was a bit of run support.

    Prior to puck drop, the Red Wings announced that defenseman Mike Green, who was hampered by a neck injury back in February, will go under the knife, ending his season.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck