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Kings, Ducks await big moment in Game 7 tonight

Ice HockeyAnaheim DucksWillie MitchellJustin WilliamsChicago BlackhawksWestern Conference (NHL)Darryl Sutter
The Kings won a Game 7 at San Jose in the first round, so they're in familiar territory Friday night
A California-based team is guaranteed to advance to the West final for the ninth time in the last 11 years

Members of the Ducks and the Kings said they were a bit anxious about playing Game 7 of their Western Conference semifinal series Friday night at Honda Center, but they also said they planned to embrace the moment.

“I’m excited. It’s an opportunity, obviously, for our team to move on, and put somebody else behind us, and that’s our goal tonight,” Ducks captain Ryan Getzlaf said.

Kings right wing Justin Williams has developed a reputation as a clutch player in Game 7 situations. He has played in five throughout his career and has recorded five goals and 10 points -- all for the winning side.

He said after Friday’s morning skate that he was feeling the same mix of emotions he usually does in these extraordinary circumstances.  

“Every Game 7 brings about the same butterflies, anxiousness, excitement for me,” he said. “They’re all the same.”

The Kings won a Game 7 at San Jose in the first round to complete their comeback from an 0-3 series deficit. So they’re in familiar territory. Williams said the Kings “have that quiet arrogance within our group,” an assurance they can rely on in tense situations to help them escape elimination for a sixth time.

“I think the most important thing to do in Game 7's, and realistically every game, is to trust your instincts,” he said. “Your instincts are what got you here, and most of the time they’re spot on. That’s certainly what I do. I just believe that with the right instincts you’re going to make the right play. The less thinking the better, sometimes.”

But here’s something worth thinking about: Whichever team advances to the West final against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks will have earned a place in any discussion of elite organizations. 

If the Kings prevail Friday, they’d be in the conference final for the third straight season, a noteworthy accomplishment in an era when the salary cap promotes parity. They won the West and the Cup in 2012 and lost to Chicago in a five-game West final last season.

If the Ducks win Friday, they would play in the conference final for the fourth time since 2003, a number matched during that span only by the Blackhawks. The Ducks previously won the West in 2003, lost to Edmonton in 2006, and won the West and the Cup in 2007.

In either case, a California-based team is guaranteed to advance to the West final for ninth time in last 11 seasons.

Williams politely declined to discuss what it would mean for the Kings as an organization to be in a third straight West final.

“I don’t want to look too far ahead,” he said. “You’ve got two great teams battling it out in a winner-take-all situation, so I’m not going to look too far ahead of anything.

“They were No. 1 for a reason. They were the best regular-season team in this conference so we have our hands full and we’re certainly not shying away. We’re prepared for it.”

Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell, who hasn’t played since he sustained a lower-body injury in Game 6 of the first round, participated in the morning skate. However, Coach Darryl Sutter said Mitchell “is not an option” for Friday’s game. Reporters who asked to talk to Mitchell were told he’s injured, which means he’s not obligated to speak.

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