On Tuesday, the Kings will play in what would promise to be a rather boring game between the two teams in the NHL that are tied for 28th in offense. However, games between the Kings and Ducks, despite other circumstances, usually tend to be anything but boring, and despite both averaging just 2.27 goals per game, perhaps we’ll be in for an entertaining game on Tuesday. Unfortunately for the offensively-challenged Kings, just like on Saturday and just like they’ll need to do for at least a couple of more games, they’ll need to play without the man who leads them in goals, as well as brings so much else to the team, Mike Richards.
Yes, Mike Richards, the man who had a pair of goals in a 5-3 victory a couple of weeks ago when the Kings last visited Anaheim, and the man who has arguably been the Kings’ MVP this season. The Kings’ offense was struggling enough with Richards, so losing him is a scary thought for the Kings (who are also without Willie Mitchell and Alec Martinez, of course), who were only able to muster a single, lonely goal in their loss to the Canadiens on Saturday.
Fortunately for the Kings, they’re playing an Anaheim team that has been brutal this season. The Ducks have been so bad that they even recently fired long-time head coach Randy Carlyle, the man who led the Ducks to their only Stanley Cup in 2007, and replaced him with Bruce Boudreau, the man who was recently relieved of his duties as head coach of the Capitals. Boudreau was the first head coach of the Kings’ AHL affiliate, the Manchester Monarchs, and coached them from 2001-2005, and while he was in the Kings organization he got to learn about the rivalry between the Kings and Ducks, and says that “I think there’s going to be a lot of hatred on both sides. When I was part of the Kings organization, they certainly didn’t like the Ducks. So now that I’m here, I certainly don’t like the Kings.”
Boudreau is still searching for his first win in Anaheim, as his team found ways in both of his first two games to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory, blowing a 3-0 lead in the third period last Friday against the Flyers before losing in overtime, and then against the Wild on Sunday, had a 2-0 lead before allowing a Dany Heatley goal with under four seconds remaining in the first period which opened the door for a 5-3 loss to Minnesota. The ways they’ve just refused to win and just done anything to find new ways to lose has almost been impressive. However, you figure that they’re going to want to try and win against their arch-rivals on Tuesday, and the Ducks always seem to step up their game against the Kings, so despite what the standings say, the Kings will need to bring their best on Tuesday, especially since they’re without Richards, Mitchell and Martinez.
As mentioned earlier, the Kings and Ducks are tied for 28th in the NHL in offense, averaging 2.27 goals per game. However, the Ducks are surrendering an average of 3.19 goals against per game, which ranks their defense 27th in the NHL, while the Kings are averaging 2.15 goals against per game, which ranks their defense third in the NHL.
On special teams, the Ducks actually haven’t been bad this season. Their power-play ranks 12th in the NHL at an 18.2% success rate, and if I recall correctly, their power-play was ranked very low the last time the Kings played Anaheim a couple of weeks ago, so that means the Ducks have had quite a bit of success lately, which will provide a stiff test for a Kings penalty kill that has been on fire lately and had a streak of 24 consecutive killed penalties ended on Saturday. LA’s penalty kill ranks eighth in the NHL at an 85% success rate. Meanwhile, the Kings power-play, ranking 13th in the NHL at a 17.9% success rate, had been struggling lately, but now has a goal in two straight games. However, they’re going to be in tough without Richards, the catalyst of the Kings power-play this season, and against a Ducks penalty kill that is killing off 84.6% of their penalties, ranking them 10th in the NHL.
Despite the train-wreck that is the Anaheim Ducks this season, they clearly do have talent. Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Corey Perry and Teemu Selanne headline their offensive group. However, lack of depth may explain the Ducks’ offensive struggles this season, as Saku Koivu, Andrew Cogliano, Niklas Hagman, Matt Beleskey, Andrew Gordon, Ben Maxwell, Maxime Macenauer, Devante Smith-Pelly, Jean Francois-Jacques and George Parros make up the remainder of their forwards. Two of them will be healthy scratches. Jason Blake is on the injured reserve.
On the blue-line, the Ducks are still without their top defenseman, former King Lubomir Visnovsky, who is on the injured reserve, along with Matt Smaby. Luca Sbisa, Francois Beauchemin, Sheldon Brookbank, Kurtis Foster, Cam Fowler, Nate Guenin and Toni Lydman make up the Ducks defense corps. One of them will be a healthy scratch.
In goal, Jonas Hiller has struggled this year. In 23 starts, he is 6-11-5 with a shutout and a 3.18 GAA to go along with an .899 Sv%. Backup Dan Ellis on the injured reserve, so Jeff Deslauriers has been called up to take his spot.
For the Kings, they’ve switched things up once again. Simon Gagne has not scored in seven games and Justin Williams hasn’t scored in 17 games, so looking to reignite them, Terry Murray has reunited them with Anze Kopitar on the top line. Meanwhile, he also wanted to move Dustin Brown back to left wing, so he will be on the left with Jarret Stoll and Trent Hunter on the second line. Despite having what was probably his best game as a King on Saturday, Dustin Penner finds himself on the third line with Andrei Loktionov and Ethan Moreau. I would have liked to have left Penner in a better position to succeed, but Murray wanted to put Gagne, a left wing, back on the top line, and Brown back on the left wing, as well as on the second line, so that left Penner, also a left wing, on the third line. At least he has a skilled centre in Loktionov to play with, and he should still get some power-play time. Colin Fraser will be between Kyle Clifford and Kevin Westgarth on the fourth line, while Brad Richardson goes back to the press box to join Trevor Lewis as the healthy scratches at forward, as they have been the regular scratches up front for quite a while now. I really would like to see these guys in the lineup over Hunter and Moreau. They haven’t been great, but they bring more, especially speed to a slow team. Oh well…
On defense, it’s expected to remain Rob Scuderi with Drew Doughty, Jack Johnson with Slava Voynov, and Davis Drewiske with Matt Greene. Jonathan Quick will be in goal.
So, the Kings will look to get the offense on track and take advantage of the reeling Ducks, who are 1-7-2 in their last 10 games and overall just 7-14-5 on the season, as their 19 points rank them 29th in the NHL. Will they be able to, or will the Ducks get their first win under Bruce Boudreau?