The Kings played Saturday in what was the first of a back-to-back situation for them. Perhaps luckily, the game was not at the customary 7:30pm start time, which would have made it tough to get ready to play in Anaheim Sunday at 6pm. Rather, the Kings faced Edmonton at 1pm.
The Ducks, meanwhile, were likely resting, having been pushed around by Dallas Friday night in Anaheim. They had beaten the Stars twice in a row, and their coach had said mid-week that it would be tough to beat the same time three times consecutively, but Friday, they didn’t show up ready. Their captain was out with an injury that Boudreau said they were going to treat with care and patience, not rushing him back. But he further said that the team needed to function effectively whether Getzlaf was in or out, since they had dealt with adversity recently when Corey Perry was out, suspended for four games.
So was the game Saturday a tuneup to face the Ducks? The skills that were sharpened if that were the case came early on the power play. The Kings were shorthanded once in period one, but the Oilers were without a man three times, on one of which the Kings scored. That goal made it 2-0, as they had been given a lead early by Mike Richards, who snapped a wrister out of the corner at the hash marks past goalie Devan Dubnyk with about a minute and a half gone.
LA came out in period two with a short bit of power play time left, but they quickly offered the Oilers a chance to practice their PP. On the chance, the visitors scored, making the game 2-1. Meanwhile, the Kings were on the short end in shots, 13-9 down by the 13 minute mark.
Perhaps predicting what will happen Sunday, the Kings had both Alec Martinez and Tyler Toffoli out of their lineup as scratches. They have an extra defenseman, as you recall, having read about Robyn Regehr coming to the team earlier in the week, and Martinez, at this point, is not playing as well defensively as, for instance, Jake Muzzin, the rookie semi-phenom, or Keaton Ellerby. Read either one as taking the spot that Martinez might be presumed to have vacated.
Toffoli was brought up on March 11th having scored at about a point a game clip in the AHL. He played a few games then sat a couple. He was in for five more, then hasn’t dressed for two. Who’s in his spot? Nolan, who was with Colin Fraser and a rotating cast of others including Kyle Clifford. Or Fraser. Or Richardson. One of the group ends up sitting on most nights. This will be a problem more involved when Dustin Penner comes off IR.
The Kings built on their early start to make the lead 3-1, another power play goal which puts the 0-for-25 beginning of the season on the PP well behind them. That goal came in period two. In P3, the team poured on the offense, with Dubnyk making a number of key saves to keep his Oilers in it. The shots ended up being 39-24 in LA’s favor.
So what does this suggest for Sunday? Boudreau was quick to point out after his team’s last game that the matchup against the Kings will not be any kind of ultimate test for the Ducks. He wants to win every game, but he warned that anyone reading the game as some kind of measure of what will happen as the playoffs come is incorrect. A game is just a game. Sutter said essentially the same thing Saturday after the Edmonton win, which was 4-1 after Doughty scored into an empty net.
He said that the biggest challenge was “playing a team that’s ten, twelve points ahead of us. We’re playing a better team.”
Then he admitted that he watches Anaheim play when his squad is off. What he sees is “a big team, strong team, veteran team. Kids they brought up playing well. Using two goalies. So, we know that. We know they’re a division winner. I’m not saying that because we play tomorrow, but when you get off to that type of a lead, it’s impossible to make it up. You know what, we just want to concentrate on us and try to play well.”
He said that it’s tough to play on the road, and that “It doesn’t matter if you’re going into Catalina Island, if they had a team.” This is a small island off the coast of Long Beach. That pretty much broke up the post-game press conference. Oh, and his admission that he hasn’t yet been there in his stint in LA. As to the question of whether the Kings are ready to play the Ducks, the answer is that they’re neither more nor less ready than they were before the beat Edmonton. As Sutter earlier said, the Kings have been on a winning trajectory for a long while. There’s nothing recent about their gathered momentum.
The team travels Saturday night. Sutter said they’ve tried it various ways, going down to Anaheim early, later, and so on, but that this was this week’s method.
He also commented on the Anaheim goaltending duo, saying that his own strategy is to “keep them [netminders] fresh. We’ve got to do what they [Anaheim] do.” That is, rotate.
Twitter: @growinguphockey. Books: Growing Up Hockey, Living the Hockey Dream, My Country Is Hockey.