The Los Angeles Kings have no false illusions as they push to clinch a playoff spot heading into Tuesday’s road clash with the Anaheim Ducks — just win.
The Kings (40-27-10, 90 points) sit third in the Pacific Division and have the Vegas Golden Knights — who are outside a playoff position — breathing down their necks before facing the Ducks (30-33-14, 74 points).
“We’ll celebrate a win any way we can,” coach Todd McLellan said of his team’s mindset. “Ugly, from behind, some of them you might not even deserve, but we need them and we’ll take them any way we can get them.”
The Kings are coming off Saturday’s crucial 2-1 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game in which they blocked a season-high 26 shots — proof positive of the necessary commitment needed.
“It’s that time of the year,” McLellan said. “If you’re not getting in the lane right now there’s something wrong with you. It’s desperate hockey.”
Desperate hockey from a team that needed to rebound from a disappointing result in their previous outing, a 9-3 loss at the hands of the league-leading Colorado Avalanche. Granted, Saturday’s game was against a Blue Jackets team eliminated from playoff contention, but the Kings were much better at limiting chances.
“We had to bounce back, which we did right away in the game,” said forward Phillip Danault, who has scored a career-high 24 goals and netted six points during a five-game streak. “Every single game is going to be big until the end, so it’s a do or die.”
The Ducks are eliminated from playoff contention, but have been playing solid hockey, lately. Anaheim, which is coming off a 6-4 win over the Blue Jackets on Sunday, has a 2-1-2 mark in its last five outings — and those two extra-time defeats came against the Eastern Conference-leading Florida Panthers and two-time defending Stanley Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
As much as this season’s playoff hopes are dusted, the Ducks are doing a good job of trying to build momentum for the future.
“There’s a lot of excitement in our room right now,” forward Troy Terry said. “It’s been an up-and-down season, but we’re excited, and we’re excited for next year.”
Terry is one reason hopes are high in Anaheim that better days are coming soon. Terry scored twice against the Blue Jackets, giving him 36 on the season, the most for the Ducks since Corey Perry netted 43 in 2013-14.
“I’ve always been able to score goals, but I’ve always been more of a pass-first guy,” Terry said. “Everyone’s been telling me to shoot the puck more. That’s something I came into this year trying to focus on.”
The other breakthrough player for Anaheim is rookie Trevor Zegras, who is second among the league’s rookies with 57 points (21 goals, 36 assists). Zegras, the 21-year-old 2019 first-round draft choice, tied the franchise record for points by a rookie (equaling the mark set by Bobby Ryan in 2008-09).
“Bobby Ryan was a tremendous hockey player.” Zegras said. “I grew up watching him play, so to be tied to him in any way is pretty special for me. There are things I’m happy about this year, but where we are as a team, I think there’s a lot we can work on, a lot I can work on.”
–Field Level Media