The hockey landscape is changing in southern California, a fact made especially evident by the Los Angeles Kings building the longest winning streak in franchise history.
They have been showing the Anaheim Ducks their improvement firsthand.
The Kings seek their 10th straight win and sixth in a row over the Ducks as the teams meet for the second time in five days Monday night in Anaheim.
Since Los Angeles last reached the playoffs in 2002, the Ducks have been the region’s more successful franchise, making it to the Stanley Cup finals twice and winning their first championship in 2007.
Anaheim (27-24-7), though, is in danger of missing the postseason for the first time since 2004, while the Kings (36-19-3) are tied with Phoenix for fourth place in the Western Conference.
Los Angeles has solidified its position during a nine-game winning streak, which continued Saturday with a dramatic 4-3 victory over Detroit. The Kings trailed 3-0 after one period, but erased the deficit in the second and won when Michal Handzus(notes) scored with 2:21 left.
“We have a lot of confidence right now, and we know that if we stick to our game, most nights we will be successful,” Handzus said.
The Kings’ potent attack gives them a chance to erase most deficits. They have recorded 34 goals during the winning streak, with top scorer Anze Kopitar(notes) totaling seven goals and eight assists. Handzus chipped in six points in the last two games.
A strong defense in front of Jonathan Quick(notes) has also helped. Kings coach Terry Murray stuck with the young goalie after the rocky first period and Quick responded, picking up his 34th win - one shy of Mario Lessard’s single-season franchise record set in 1980-81.
“It’s a very satisfying win to see the players come together for each other,” Murray said. “We want to build on it. We’ve got some big games before the Olympic break, so we want to push hard until we get there.”
The Kings, winners of their last seven road games, scored at least four goals in each of their five consecutive wins against the Ducks, a streak that includes three victories this season and two at Honda Center.
Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle watched his club rally from a three-goal deficit at Los Angeles on Thursday, but Dustin Brown(notes) and Kopitar scored in the final six minutes to give the Kings a 6-4 victory.
“We can’t win hockey games giving up six goals. It’s as simple as that,” Carlyle said. “We worked hard, but we just seemed like we ran out of gas at the end. That’s the sign of a tired group.”
The Ducks hope to benefit from three days off since the defeat. They allowed a total of two goals while winning three straight before losing to the Kings.
Hiller went 4-0-0 with a 0.74 GAA in his first four starts against the Kings, but lost his last five matchups with them, posting a 4.59 GAA in that stretch. Quick, meanwhile, is 5-0-0 with a 2.60 GAA in his young career against the Ducks.