Ducks visit Kings in first SoCal battle of season

·3 min read
NHL: St. Louis Blues at Anaheim Ducks

The hockey needle in Southern California is struggling to rise as a pair of relatively recent former champions slog their way through rebuilding phases.

The Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings will at least get to compare notes about the process Tuesday night when they meet for the first time this season at Staples Center in Los Angeles.

The West Division has unfolded as expected so far with the St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights fulfilling their roles as favorites, joined by the Minnesota Wild. But the Ducks and Kings do have eight points each (three behind fourth place) and neither is in the division's basement, at least for now.

Just over two weeks into the delayed season, both teams have had moments that illustrate just how much growth is needed.

The Kings blew a pair of two-goal leads in the third period of their first two games of the season, losing both to the Wild in overtime. The Ducks lost 6-1 Friday to the Blues after giving up three goals in the first two minutes of the game. When they vowed to be better, they did not exactly lie, falling 4-1 to the Blues on Sunday.

The Kings are returning for their first home game since Jan. 21. They went 2-2-0 on a four-game trip to St. Louis and Minnesota, winning one game at each.

In a 5-3 loss to the Wild on Thursday, the Kings lost defenseman Matt Roy after he was shoved face-first into the boards by Minnesota's Kevin Fiala, who was assessed a game misconduct and three-game suspension for the play.

Later, the Kings lost defenseman Sean Walker when he took a slap shot to the face.

"We weren't very good before (Roy) got hit and then we started to wake up and play a little bit," Kings coach Todd McLellan said. "And then when (Walker) took the shot, we talked about it. The guys wanted to play for them.

"So, I thought we played harder after we lost two guys than we did before. Emotionally it takes a lot out of a group to see two teammates leave like that."

Before Thursday's game, the Kings also learned that forward Andreas Athanasiou was added to the COVID-19 protocol list. Both Roy and Walker will be out for an extended period.

In the Ducks' repeat game against the Blues on Sunday, Adam Henrique was scratched from the lineup, and goaltender John Gibson was back after he was pulled Friday when he gave up three quick goals.

Still, Anaheim failed to capitalize on its chances, giving up four goals in the final 30 minutes of ice time, losing despite a 26-23 advantage on shots.

"I don't think it'll be tough on their confidence," Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said. "I actually thought they played with much more of it. They were upbeat on the bench. They were playing the game the right way. That score does not indicate how we played at all."

Usually a key contributor to the offense, Henrique has just one goal and one assist in nine games this season, but his time as an observer is not expected to be long.

"Adam is a man of high character. He understands why," Eakins said. "He's going to respond, for sure. I think others took great notice."

(Field Level Media)