After a first half of the season defined by who wasn’t on the ice because of injury, the Ducks were at full strength Saturday and it showed in a 4-2 win at Staples Center that dampened a celebration of Kings announcer Bob Miller after his statue was unveiled outside the arena.
The Ducks won with a thorough neutral zone attack in the second period and the start of the third, withstanding the inevitable late push by the Kings. It was an emotional rivalry game coming out of the bye week that sent both sides back to their respective corners feeling differently.
Here’s what we learned:
This is going to be an interesting second half
It’s difficult to believe the Ducks, after leading the NHL with players missing 237 games to injury, sit four points behind the second-place Kings in the Pacific Division. The Calgary Flames are on the rise, too, at one point behind the Kings, who fell to 5-6-3 in the division.
It portends a tight finish in a division that might get only three playoff berths, given the current strength of the Central Division.
“We’re sitting pretty good in the standings, but the teams from behind, especially Anaheim and Calgary a week ago, they’re catching up if we’re going to keep losing to them,” Anze Kopitar said. “Within the division we haven’t been very good, so we’ve got to improve on that.”
Alex Iafallo backed up his words
Iafallo said in the morning skate that he was “hungry and ready to go” for the second half. He was benched for two games primarily because of defensive lapses.
“It helped me realize where I’m at and what I need to work on,” Iafallo said. “Watching a couple games, I got to put myself in certain positions and learn from that. It definitely helped out.”
Iafallo looked much better on the top line. He almost scored on a drive to the net and his pass from behind the goal line led to Kopitar’s goal.
“I thought he was terrific tonight,” Kings coach John Stevens said. “Probably one of our best players, if not our best player. He really got on top of a lot of pucks. It was apparent to us early on that we need to move him up right away … He really came back energized. That’s his game. When he gets the spaces, he comes up with pucks and makes plays in tight spaces. I thought he did that tonight.”
Andrew Cogliano’s iron-man streak could end — improbably
Cogliano is specifically known for a clean, honest game but he caught Kings center Adrian Kempe high after Kempe got rid of the puck and was given an interference penalty in the first period.
It could be more than a minor penalty. The NHL’s Player Safety Department is reportedly looking at the incident. If there’s supplemental discipline, Cogliano’s 830 consecutive games played streak would end on an uncharacteristic illegal hit, of all things. Cogliano has played every game of his 11-year NHL career.