Ducks aren't surprised by their recent run of success, and neither are the Kings

Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said he hadn't looked at the standings. Similarly, Cam Fowler said he's not much of a "standings watcher."

Maybe their view is blocked by the rungs on the ladder they're climbing.

The Ducks are aware, though, that their 11-3-1 run since Christmas has put them back into the third and final playoff spot in the Pacific Division going into Thursday's game against the first-place Kings at Staples Center. It's a tribute to their perseverance after their 1-7-2 start.

They have gone 22-11-5 since and looked like the potent team most observers thought would eventually be.

"I think going through something that we went through at the beginning of the season just made us stronger," center Ryan Kesler said. "At this point, I think we know the way we need to play to win hockey games. We've been doing a good job of playing defense first. That's what made us successful, and now we're scoring goals, which makes us even more dangerous.

"We always believed we were going to make the playoffs, and we still believe it now."

It was more a matter of when, not if, the Ducks would turn it around, according to the Kings.

"It's a long season and you go through stretches during the season where you're not playing so good," defenseman Jake Muzzin said. "They just had that at the start. They were in the hole a little bit and couldn't win for a while. They found their way back into the swing of things and most people thought they would."

Anaheim has scored 26 goals in its last seven games to support a defense that has allowed 111 goals through 48 games, the third fewest in the NHL. Boudreau downplayed the significance of getting back into a playoff spot with so many games ahead, but they got the right start to a three-game divisional stretch this week with a 3-2 victory Tuesday against San Jose.

It's difficult to believe the Ducks remain last in the league at 2.13 goals a game.

Asked if he scratches his head at that statistic, Boudreau said, "Look, I've got no hair. I scratch my head a lot."

He got serious and said: Yes, "especially because I think we play an aggressive game — attacking the net. It was really surprising the first 30 games or even 40 games. We couldn't put the puck in the ocean. It's starting to go in now.

"I'm not complaining."

More often than not, the Kings and Ducks have not been playing well at the same time. But the Kings are coming off a season-high six goals in their win Tuesday against Arizona, including a season-high three power-play goals. Five players had two-point games: defensemen Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez and Muzzin, as well as center Anze Kopitar and captain Dustin Brown.

Their penalty-killing was flawless, too, as Arizona went 0 for 5 on the power play. Kings defenseman Luke Schenn received a double-minor for charging and roughing near the end of the first period that forced Coyotes defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson to leave the game briefly. He returned for the second period.

"I think it was just about timing," Schenn said. "I kind of made the read and I knew my feet came up, but it was after contact. I knew I didn't hit him in the head. ... I saw the replay, and after the start of the second period, I was skating over to the penalty box and Ekman-Larsson came over and told me, 'Hey, good hit. Good clean hit,' or whatever.

"It was reassuring to know he wasn't hurt, and at the same time, it was a clean hit. It was after contact, and I knew I didn't hit him in the head. Then I went back into the dressing room. I honestly didn't know why I had been kicked out."

KINGS-DUCKS NEXT UP

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: NBCSN; Radio: 790, 830.

Update: The announcing crew for the game on NBCSN will feature a partnership, for the night, between analysts from rival teams as the Kings' Jim Fox will serve as the color analyst and the Ducks' Brian Hayward as the "Inside the Glass" analyst/reporter. Veteran announcer Gord Miller will do the play-by-play.

Follow Curtis Zupke on Twitter @CurtisZupke

Follow Lisa Dillman on Twitter @reallisa

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on February 04, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Ducks' run is no surprise" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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