The Los Angeles Kings are heading south to face the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center for the third game in this season’s Freeway Face-Off.
The Ducks won the first game between the two on November 1 at Staples Center in Los Angeles, but the Kings came back to win the second game November 20 at the Honda Center.
Both teams are not doing well right now. Before their game with the Florida Panthers on February 3, Anaheim was one point behind the division-leading San Jose Sharks. Since then they have lost five of their last seven games and are now in third place behind the Edmonton Oilers.
The Kings position in the race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is far more precarious. They trail the Nashville Predators and Calgary Flames in the wild card hunt and the current trend shows little — if any — hope they will make the post-season.
Head coach Darryl Sutter has criticized the play of their goalie, Peter Budaj, telling the media, “We need better goaltending to be a better team. There are mistakes every shift. Goaltending takes care of all that.”
Budaj is taking the net for Jonathan Quick who injured his groin in the first game of the season. He has had stretches of playing well, but in the last five games he has given up 20 of 24 goals against the Kings.
Quick is scheduled to return next month, but the question is: will the Kings be in a position to grab one of those wild card slots?
On top of their goaltending woes, the Kings are not scoring. In the past five games they have only scored eight goals. That’s a 3-1 advantage for their opponents. Budaj’s teammates aren’t as quick as their coach to blame the goaltending. They recognize they need to score more goals and play better defense.
For the Ducks, they will be playing without center Antoine Vermette who was suspended for ten games for slashing Shandor Alphonso in the legs in Tuesday night’s 1-0 win against the Minnesota Wild.
Their Achilles Heel all season has been the second period. They have given up 63 goals in the second period all season. The Ducks have to remain consistent for the entire 60 minutes if they expect to win, especially against the Kings, their divisional and freeway rivals. The games between these two teams are always brutally rough with good skating on both sides. Players and coaches from both teams will say it’s just another game, with the needs to gain points and standing in the division and conference, but once the puck drops fans can expect a lot of great action.
Just like the Ducks v Kings games at Staples Center, the Honda Center will be filled with fans for both Anaheim and Los Angeles so it will be loud throughout the game.
It’s the Freeway Face-Off and the action is set to start at 6 p.m. local time.
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UPDATE February 20: It was a tough loss for the Los Angeles Kings Sunday night in Anaheim. The Ducks only scored one goal, from Josh Manson, but that was all they needed. Ducks goalie John Gibson and his team shut out the Kings.
It was the third loss in a row for the Kings who have struggled to score all season. Goalie Peter Budaj made a lot of great saves and some of the Ducks’ shots bounced off the net’s frame, but they needed more than good goaltending.
For Anaheim it was good to win after a big loss to the Florida Panthers.
Both goalies, Budaj for the Kings and John Gibson for the Ducks, made highlight reel saves and the defense on both ends was excellent. Both teams had opportunities, but were unable to score.
It was a physical game as expected and the fans saw the first fight late in the first period, so it was an entertaining night.
Next up for Anaheim: they meet the Arizona Coyotes in Phoenix and for Los Angeles they travel to Denver to meet the Colorado Avalanche.
The Freeway Face-Off will continue Saturday, February 25 at Staples Center in Los Angeles. It should be another great night of hockey for the fans.
Photos by Claudia Gestro