Part one of the Freeway Faceoff begins tonight at 7:30pm as the Anaheim Ducks take on the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center. This marks the first of six games in which the division rivals will face each other this season. Last season, the Ducks won four of the six matchups, but coming into tonight’s game have lost seven of their last eight games. Both teams have been plagued by inconsistency in the early stages of the 2011-2012 season, particularly on offense. During the Kings five game losing streak (from Oct. 29th- Nov 7th), the team was unable to score more than two goals per game, but have recently found more success as seen in their 4 and 5 goal-games against Nashville and Minnesota.
Andrei Loktionov has been recalled from the minor leagues and will make his season debut with the Kings tonight. He will be playing on the left wing of the second line with Dustin Brown and Mike Richards, as Dustin Penner has been placed on IR with a hand injury and will not play. Rookie defenseman Slava Voynov will also be making a return to the Kings lineup tonight to fill in for an injured Alec Martinez. This will be Voynov’s first return since his incredible 3 point performance against the Dallas Stars on October 27th. His addition to the lineup will be shaking up the usual defense pairings at least for tonight’s game, and they will be as follows:
Greene-Scuderi, Mitchell-Voynov, Johnson-Doughty
It’s not typical in Terry Murray’s coaching philosophy that we see two stay at home defenseman paired together (Greene & Scuderi), but I think putting Doughty and Johnson back on the ice together could be a great way to produce offense. We see this during the power play, but maybe pairing them together throughout the game will help the Kings get some more 5 on 5 scoring action. As seen earlier in the season, Mitchell and Voynov work really well together, so I think shaking up the pairings will turn out to be a good call on Murray’s part. I guess we’ll see.
Although the Ducks (6-8-3) currently sit near the very bottom of the league, it is hard to forget about the insane amount of talent on their roster. They have arguably one of the best top lines in hockey. Last season, 2005’s 2nd overall draft pick Bobby Ryan had 34 goals, Ryan Getzlaf had 76 points in 67 games, and Corey Perry was selected as MVP of the regular season, winning the Hart Memorial Trophy with 50 goals and 48 assists. Let’s also not forget about the 41 year old Teemu Selanne, who is leading his team in points and showing absolutely no signs of declining talent. Goaltender Jonas Hiller was once considered a superstar before he was forced to sit out a large portion of the 2010-2011 season battling vertigo. He hasn’t quite rediscovered any consistency yet, but he still has the makings of a top goaltender. Young defenseman Cam Fowler hit a hot streak with 2 goals against the Minnesota Wild last Sunday, and looks to continue shining.
What it comes down to, is that these two teams have a lot riding on these back to back games. On paper, the Ducks and Kings sounds like prime examples of Stanley Cup contenders, but still have a lot to prove. If the Kings can win both of these games, it could put them right back near the top of the conference.
Who do you think will come out on top? Be sure to comment your thoughts, as well as tweet them during, before, and after the two games Wednesday (in L.A.) and Thursday (in Anaheim). Use hashtag #FreewayFaceoff.
GO KINGS GO
Tags: Alec Martinez Anaheim Ducks Andrei Loktionov Bobby Ryan Cam Fowler Corey Perry Dallas Stars Drew Doughty Dustin Brown Dustin Penner Freeway Faceoff Jack Johnson Jonas Hiller Los Angeles Kings Matt Greene Mike Richards Minnesota Wild Nashville Predators Rob Scuderi Ryan Getzlaf Slava Voynov Teemu Selanne Willie Mitchell