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March 18, 2011 5:30 pm

Stakes raised higher in rivalry games

It’s tough to overstate the importance of the upcoming three games between the Kings and Anaheim Ducks. The teams meet tomorrow night at Staples Center, then close the regular season with a home-and-home series on back-to-back nights. These three games could go a long way toward determining the playoff fates of both teams. The Kings will enter tomorrow night’s game in fifth place in the Western Conference, four points ahead of the 10th-place Ducks, so anything can happen over the final three weeks of the regular season. The usual intensity between the rivals figures to be at an even higher level, given what is at stake, and after practice today, both Drew Doughty and Terry Murray said they are looking forward to the games…

DOUGHTY: “It’s going to be fun. It’s only that 45-minute drive between us. Every time we play Anaheim, the stands are packed and the fans are always kind of half and half. Whenever we play there, it’s half our fans and half theirs, and same when they come here. So it’s a good atmosphere and it’s a rivalry that’s been going on forever, so to have those battles, those three games, they’re going to be real playoff-like games.”

MURRAY: “I’m excited about the game, the remaining three games, because they’re going to have great meaning. When you’re on the East Coast, you get a lot of rivals develop very quickly, geographically, because you’re so close. The Rangers and the Devils, the Islanders, the Flyers, a lot of things get heated up and they’re great games. Those are intense. That’s when you can look at your team and you can evaluate players and say, `OK, let’s see what you’ve got.’ And that’s fun. I look at the remaining games with Anaheim, San Jose, I think these are going to be intense, they’re going to be hard and they’re going to be great games for the fans and great games for the players. These are games that, as you grew up, these are the games you wanted to play. It brings your best out. … It’s not just another regular-season game. This is a game that has a lot of meaning. It means playoffs and positioning. It’s got the potential to be a very intense hockey game.”

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