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Ducks clinch Pacific, setting up Sharks vs. Kings in first round

Ducks beat Sharks 5-2, clinch Pacific title

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Anaheim Ducks' Matt Beleskey celebrates his goal during the second period of an NHL hockey game against the San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, in Anaheim, Calif. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong)

While his coach downplayed the idea that the Anaheim Ducks preferred not to play the Los Angeles Kings in the opening round of the playoffs, Kyle Palmieri was a realist.

“[The Kings] are a team with a great goalie, they know how to win in the playoffs, are only a couple years removed from the Stanley Cup,” he told the LA Times this week. “You want to try and make it as easy as you can and finish with the highest seed possible.”

Of course you do, which is why avoiding the Kings is as important as winning a second straight Pacific Division banner for the Ducks, which they did with a 5-2 win over the San Jose Sharks and a sieve impersonating Antti Niemi.

This isn’t to say that the Wild or Stars or Coyotes won’t be a tough out. But they have a decided lack of Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty on their rosters.

The Sharks, on the other hand, meet the Kings in the first round. It’s a rematch of that seven-game classic last season that featured four 1-goal games, with the Kings winning in the first Game 7 in Staples Center history.

The home team won every game in that series.

This time, it’s the Sharks with home ice.

Keep in mind that the new playoff format will give us two rounds of hot California-on-California hockey action, as the Ducks would play the winner of Sharks/Kings. Assuming the Ducks make it past the first round; oh, hi Bruce Boudreau …

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