The heat is on.
The Ducks and Calgary Flames are set to play each other in the first round of the playoffs. The Ducks clinched their fifth straight Pacific Division title in a 4-3 overtime win against the Kings on Sunday.
Longtime Kings announcer Bob Miller (and possibly Jarome Iginla) rode off into the sunset, while the Ducks ride into a mean matchup against the Flames.
Here’s what we learned:
The end of the regular season couldn’t come soon enough.
The Ducks just wanted to finish unharmed, but that went out the window when Cam Fowler was injured last week.
Patrick Eaves suffered an upper-body injury Sunday, though Coach Randy Carlyle indicated that it wasn’t serious. Brandon Montour was victimized by hits by Trevor Lewis and Jeff Carter.
For a team that’s rolling, the Ducks don’t want anything thrown into the spokes of their wheel.
“You put the season behind you,” Andrew Cogliano said. “You kind of adapt. You look at what you’ve done well and what you can improve upon and what needs to get better. It’s a clean slate now.”
Shea Theodore and Ondrej Kase are back in the fold.
Fowler’s injury and previous injuries to defensemen Sami Vatanen and Hampus Lindholm placed more importance on Theodore taking more responsibility. He produced the overtime goal, his first in the NHL.
“It’s definitely a great time to get called up and join for the remaining couple of games,” Theodore said. “I’m just really looking forward to it.”
Kase filled the spot vacated by suspended wing Nick Ritchie and looked active in more than 15 minutes of ice time. He could play in Game 1, the last of Ritchie’s two-game suspension.
Carlyle said Kase got worn down earlier this season and had to learn to adapt.
“The wear and tear and the number of games, the schedule, and that, I think, started to catch up with him,” Carlyle said. “Just from a young player who experiences his first full season in the NHL, I think it showed. It seems that when he’s rested and when he came back, he’s a different hockey player. He’s that Energizer bunny again.”
Changes are coming to the Kings.
A failure to adapt could be seen in the Kings’ lineup Sunday. They did not play prospects Adrian Kempe, Jonny Brodzinski and Paul LaDue and dressed veterans Jonathan Quick and Marian Gaborik in a meaningless game to them.
It seems time to integrate their kids, especially with salary cap issues and a lack of NHL-ready players in their minor league system. There will also be the usual off-season moves.
“Teams change,” Anze Kopitar said. “Faces within the locker room change. Certainly it’s tough to see your friends and the players that you’ve won with go, but if that’s the case, you can’t really mope about it. You’ve got to create new memories and get fired up in another way and make sure you play to the best of your ability.”