The Kings did their part to make local hockey history by clinching a playoff berth. Now it's up to the Ducks to get in — but the Kings will stand in their way in a home-and-home series that begins Friday at Honda Center and concludes Saturday at Staples Center with the regular-season finale for both.
In an entry from the strange-but-true file, the two teams have never made the playoffs in the same season. The Kings secured their spot Wednesday, but the Ducks remained two points short when the Dallas Stars defeated Colorado on Thursday.
To get in, the Ducks need one win or for Dallas to not earn two points, but the Stars finish against long-eliminated Colorado and Minnesota. The Ducks also can make it if they get four points and Chicago doesn't get four in its final games against Detroit on Friday and Sunday. The Ducks can land anywhere from fourth through ninth.
"A little help here and there would make us more happy," Ducks winger Teemu Selanne said Thursday.
They're not likely to get it from the Kings, who jumped into fourth Wednesday and want to stay there. They plan to start No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Quick on Friday and might bring him back Saturday if a better seeding is at stake.
"It has been unbelievable. We know the situation and so the last two games are going to be huge. It's going to be fun. It's like a mini-playoffs against them now," Selanne said.
"They clinched the playoffs and that's awesome. That's good for hockey here, so hopefully we both can be in there first time."
Both teams have some questions entering these games.
Since losing forwards Justin Williams and Anze Kopitar, the Kings have resorted to a tighter defensive style but they have scored only nine goals in their last five games. Their power play, long a sore spot, is 0-for-12 over the last five games.
Quick said clinching a playoff berth was "a bit of relief," but the Kings aren't done. "We want to have home ice going into the playoffs and we're shooting for that four seed right now," he said.
The Ducks, riding an MVP-caliber performance by right wing Corey Perry — whose 50 goals include 25 that tied the score or put the Ducks ahead — aren't sure who will prevent goals from being scored against them.
Goalie Ray Emery, whose remarkable comeback from hip surgery saved their season, left their game against San Jose on Wednesday with a lower-body injury. He didn't practice Thursday but said he felt better than he anticipated and will see how he feels in Friday's morning skate.
He also said he didn't think the problem was related to his hip surgery. Jonas Hiller's status remains unclear while he battles vertigo, so the Ducks might have to start Dan Ellis if Emery doesn't feel right.
"It's a thing where I'm trying to be cautious because I'm wary of things I had in the past and I want to be able to contribute when I'm in there for a long period of time," Emery said.
Winger Bobby Ryan said the Ducks had hoped their playoff prospects would be "a little more solidified" by now but they're looking forward to a dramatic finish.
"If there's any games to get ready for playoffs it's certainly against the Kings. They bring out the best in us and we think we do likewise for them," he said. "It's going to be a fun weekend."
Noteworthy, too. If the Ducks join the Kings and San Jose Sharks in the playoffs, there will be more California-based teams competing for the Stanley Cup than Canada-based teams. Vancouver and Montreal will represent hockey's homeland.
"Wow. I didn't realize that," Ryan said. "That's actually an incredible stat. That just shows Southern California — I guess all of California —is the place to be right now."