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    Kings look to finish regular season strong in Anaheim
    • April 12, 2023

    Although their paths have continued to diverge, circumstance has set the Kings and Ducks up to play their most meaningful Freeway Faceoff since Game 7 of the Stanley Cup quarterfinals in 2014.

    The Kings hit the 100-point plateau this season. The Ducks find themselves among three teams with a shot to finish with the NHL’s lowest point total and the best chance of winning the opportunity to select phenom Connor Bedard in the upcoming draft.

    When the teams square off Thursday at Honda Center, a win could finally cement the Kings’ playoff position and a loss might inch the Ducks closer to Bedard, though the Columbus Blue Jackets could secure the top lottery position by losing their final two contests.

    The Kings will need at least one point or a Seattle loss of any kind to stay in the No. 3 position. If they do so, they’ll face either Edmonton, which wraps up its season against San Jose on Thursday, or Vegas, which will clinch the Pacific Division by earning a point in its finale Thursday against Seattle or with an Edmonton loss. If the Kings were to lose in regulation and Seattle beat Edmonton, the Kings would face the Central Division winner. There, Colorado led Dallas by one point entering Wednesday’s action, and the race will likely come down to Friday’s final game of the NHL season (Colorado vs Nashville).

    In a 3-0 win over Vancouver on Monday, the Kings welcomed back defenseman Mikey Anderson. He contributed noticeably to the Kings’ third shutout of the season, each one by a different goalie (this time it was Joonas Korpisalo). Anderson’s range, mobility and positioning have been essential to the Kings in recent campaigns.

    “Everything gets slotted back to where it should be. He’s a hell of a player, he defends so well, he cleans up a lot of mistakes from teammates and brings a physical edge,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.

    Defenseman Alex Edler made progress toward a return but should be considered doubtful for the regular-season finale in Anaheim. Forward Gabe Vilardi seemed a bit further off while Kevin Fiala, who was tied for the team lead in points with captain Anze Kopitar ahead of Game 82, was spotted wearing a knee brace after Monday’s game.

    The victory against Vancouver saw Arthur Kaliyev score a goal to establish a new career high in points during what has been an up-and-down season for the sniping winger. Phillip Danault and Trevor Moore set up a goal in an effort that might help elevate the second line closer to the level of potency it showed last year.

    “It’s been a little tough all year to get momentum. Mooresie was hurt for one quarter or half the year, so it’s hard to come back from this and get our pace back and get a playoff pace as well,” Danault said. “We’re getting there, we’re almost there. One more game and just keep the momentum going, as a team as well.”

    The Kings have won both meetings with the Ducks this season by an aggregate score of 10-4. Winger Frank Vatrano had two goals and an assist for Anaheim, while the Kings were led by Fiala, who accumulated two goals and two assists.

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    While they’ll have to drive only 35 miles or so to Anaheim on Thursday, the Kings will be heading a lot further south, all the way down under, when they play two games in Australia this fall. On Sept. 23 and 24, they’ll face the Arizona Coyotes at Melbourne’s Rod Laver Arena in a pair of preseason games that will be the first NHL matches played in the southern hemisphere.

    Ducks at Kings

    When: 7 p.m. Thursday

    Where: Honda Center

    TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeart Radio

    ​ Orange County Register