NHL on NBCSN: In fragile playoff position, Kings challenge rival Ducks

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2014-15 campaign tonight with a doubleheader. The second game of that series will see the Anaheim Ducks host the Los Angeles Kings, starting at 10:30 p.m. ET. In addition to NBCSN, you can also watch the game and pre-show online.

The Anaheim Ducks fell to Los Angeles in seven games in the 2014 playoffs, but they’ve managed to get a morsel of revenge this season by taking three of the first four games in their season series against the Kings. That’s hardly equivalent to be sent packing by the team that would go on to win the Stanley Cup, especially given that Anaheim has only won by the narrowest of margins in 2014-15. Three of this season’s games between the California rivals have gone to overtime and two of those contests had to be solved through a shootout.

Anaheim has a chance to play a meaningful role in shaping Los Angeles’ destiny tonight though. The Kings are on a 5-1-1 run going into tonight’s game, which has pushed them into the third seed in the Pacific Division, but they’re holding that playoff spot by the narrowest of margins. Los Angeles is tied with Calgary in terms of points and actually losing in the tiebreaker ROW, but the Kings have played in one less game. In other words, if Anaheim beats Los Angeles tonight then the Kings will slide behind Calgary in the playoff race even though the Flames are idle.

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Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau would rather not use that as the team’s primary drive tonight though.

“We don’t want to beat them to knock them out,” Boudreau said, per the Orange County Register. “We just want to beat them to get our position better.”

Anaheim’s Pacific Division title is already all-but secured, but the Ducks can still compete for the Presidents’ Trophy. With 95 points in 71 games, the Ducks are currently tied with the Montreal Canadiens, St. Louis Blues, and New York Rangers for first place in the NHL, although St. Louis has played in one less game than Anaheim and the Rangers have participated in three fewer contests.

That battle should give Anaheim something left to fight for in the final weeks of the season. But whether it’s a question of playoff positioning or trying to hurt the Kings’ postseason chances, neither squad should have any trouble finding motivation tonight.

“Whenever we play the Kings, it’s always a big game,” Ducks forward Nate Thompson said. “It’s a big rivalry and they’re always pretty heated games. It’s going to be fun. I’m sure it’s going to be a great atmosphere.”