The LA Kings host the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday. Here are three reasons why the Kings’ rivals shouldn’t be taken lightly.
Ask Dustin Brown about playing against your rival, and he’ll be the first to tell you records mean absolutely nothing. After all, the LA Kings forward has faced the Anaheim Ducks 84 times throughout his career, tallying 27 goals and 25 assists in those contests. Brown’s 52 points are the best mark against any team he’s played.
“Quite honestly, there’s a lot of movement that happened in the last 10 months player-wise,” the 36-year-old said after practice on Monday. “So there’s a lot of players like for me, I didn’t follow super closely when we were away. So it’s getting to know different looks on different teams, different players, and that aspect of try to key in on to see who they have.”
“But I think the Ducks that they’re gonna play the same way the Ducks-Kings game always go. It’s going to be a battle from the start, and I think we just got to bring a lot of grit.”
Anaheim was slightly better off than Los Angeles in the goal-scoring department last season, averaging 2.6 goals-per-game to the Kings’ 2.5. But in the early goings of the 2021 season, the Ducks have struggled mightily to light the lamp. They easily average the fewest goals in the NHL, with Detroit a distant second.
30 miles between home venues separate these two teams, and nothing is out of the question in the Freeway Face-Off series. Anaheim leads the all-time series 69-64-11, not including the postseason. The Ducks have lost their last three games and five of their last seven. The Kings on paper should win this game and are heavy favorites, with a -132 money line, courtesy of our friends at the Action Network.
That said, here are three reasons why the Kings shouldn’t take the Ducks lightly.
1. John Gibson putting together another brilliant season
The Ducks primary netminder lasted all of two minutes and six seconds in Anaheim’s 6-1 loss against St. Louis on Saturday night. Even with the dumpster fire of a performance this past weekend, John Gibson owns a 2.51 GAA and .921 SV%, second-best among goaltenders who have played at least eight games.
He also has two shutouts, which were huge, given how anemic the Ducks’ offense is. The 27-year-old has been outstanding against the LA Kings in his career, posting a 1.90 GAA and a .934 SV% in 16 games.
2. Ducks defense better than it looks
As noted, the Kings are averaging 3.13 goals-per-contest, which should be good enough on most nights. LA’s defense has left a lot to be desired, allowing 26 goals, and they’ll be without Matt Roy and Sean Walker for what head coach Todd McLellan called an “extended period.”
On the other side of town, the Ducks boast a 2.70 goals allowed per game, the only category besting the Kings. Anaheim’s top four defenders have a wealth of experience. Outside of Drew Doughty, quite the opposite can be said of Los Angeles. Cam Fowler and Hampus Lindholm have the left side locked down, and newcomer Kevin Shattenkirk is still trying to gel on the team’s top pairing.
Anaheim’s defense has allowed 27 goals on the year, but they’ve allowed ten in the last two games. They’ve been competitive in most of their games in the shortened 2021 season, and their defense has played a big role in that. The Kings will also welcome Ben Hutton back to the Staples Center, who signed with the Ducks a couple of days after the season began.
3. Expect an angry Ducks team
As previously mentioned, the Ducks were embarrassed in their last two games, outscored 10-2. You best bet they will come out firing against their rivals in the LA Kings, who haven’t played since last Thursday. Since then, the Kings have been dealing with positive COVID tests and injuries.
Sunday and Monday’s practices featured a second line of Austin Wagner – Michael Amadio – Jeff Carter, not exactly giving you the warm fuzzies. The Kings will welcome Olli Maatta back to the top six defenders and may give Arthur Kaliyev the nod to make his NHL debut. Los Angeles can’t afford to shake off the rust of not playing for several days, especially with an angry Anaheim team waiting for them.