The Ducks secured an emotional overtime victory over the Kings on Friday in a game that carried a playoff atmosphere throughout, and that’s the kind of intensity they’ll need to carry over the next week.
The two points secured were key to the Ducks’ playoff hopes as they battle their Southern California rivals for positioning with just four games left in the regular season.
Anaheim, at 93 points accrued, occupies one of two wild card spots in the Western Conference, but a defeat to the Colorado Avalanche on Sunday would be damaging to their postseason aspirations.
The Avs sit just one point behind the Ducks, and along with the St. Louis Blues and Kings, one of those squads will probably be on the outside looking in this weekend when the campaign wraps up.
“It’s always fun — you’re playing meaningful games down the stretch,” Ducks forward Corey Perry said Saturday following practice.
“This is our playoffs, this is our Game 7s. You have to be ready to go out and match the other team’s intensity.”
And against the Avalanche, who are equally desperate for a victory, coach Randy Carlyle knows there’s no more time for off-games.
The Avs possess plenty of dynamic skaters up and down the lineup, and the Ducks must account for the top-line duo of Hart Trophy candidate Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen in particular. They’ve piled up a whopping 93 and 82 points, respectively, and both rank inside the top 15 in points this season.
Carlyle realizes the Avalanche is not just a one-line club, though, and said it’s paramount that the Ducks “start on time.”
“When we have decent starts and we’re engaged right away, we seem to be able to carry that through the 60 minutes,” Carlyle said.
“And that’s what is really going to be the thing that we desire most, to have a good start in our building and then build off our start.”
Brown draws back into lineup
When the Ducks picked up J.T. Brown off the waiver wire in January, the idea was to add speed and toughness to the fourth line.
And that’s just what Brown did, but suddenly, he was the odd man out after a pair of pickups on Feb. 26. With veteran wingers Jason Chimera and Chris Kelly now in the fold, Brown has suited up just twice since their arrivals.
Friday’s victory over the Kings was another opportunity for the 27-year-old to prove he belongs in the lineup as the playoffs approach.
“We’re all competitors, we all want to play every night and to get back in,” Brown told The Times, “you try to make as little mistakes as possible … At times like now, it’s getting late into the season, and hopefully into the playoffs as well, it’s going to be those grind shifts that kind of wear other teams down. That’s what we’re going to need.”
VS. Colorado Avalanche
When: 6 p.m.
On the air: TV: Prime Ticket; Radio: 830
Update: Semyon Varlamov has been impressive in goal this season for the Avs, but the Ducks will instead face Jonathan Bernier, who was the team’s backup to John Gibson last season. Varlamov suffered a lower-body injury in the 5-0 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and was ruled out for the remainder of the regular season. The Avalanche will also be without top defenseman Erik Johnson, who suffered a fractured patella this week and will be sidelined at least six weeks.