A good afternoon to you all, Insiders. The LA Kings skated at 10:00 at Toyota Sports Center this morning before busing south to Anaheim in advance of tonight’s game at Honda Center (FOX Sports + / FOX Sports app / LA Kings Audio Network). It was an optional skate, so there were no line rushes. Wait for the song.
— The vitals: Jack Campbell was the first goalie off the ice and therefore the projected starter. He’s 1-1-0 in his career against Anaheim with a 3.00 goals-against average and a .916 save percentage over three games, though that includes his first career NHL appearance, a 41-save loss at Honda Center while with Dallas early in the 2013-14 season and his second career appearance in November, 2016, when he entered the game to begin the third period in his second career appearance. Earlier this year he stopped 30 of 31 shots in a 4-1 win on November 6. “He’s probably our hardest worker in practice, and I think that translates for him in the game,” Dustin Brown said of Campbell, who ranks second in the league with a .930 save percentage. “He competes – I mean, that’s the one thing that’s just through the roof for him is just how hard he competes, and he’s been really good for us all year.”
It’s not uncommon to see Campbell return to the room after a practice so drained that he needs several minutes to catch his breath.
“I’ve told him before sometimes he might need to tail it back – that’s how hard he goes sometimes,” Brown said. “When Quickie got hurt, he was still going really hard in practice and he was playing a big chunk of games. It’s one thing to go really hard when you’re playing once every two weeks, but he’s managed it really well, and like I said, part of the reason I think he’s so good in games is because of how hard he practices.”
Kurtis MacDermid skated with the group but will run out of time in an attempt to return with the big club, and Desjardins essentially ruled him out for the remaining two games. MacDermid confirmed that he had been injured in the hit he delivered on Sam Bennett (who is expected to return for Calgary’s first round series, Bill Peters shared today). The Kings will run with 12 forwards and six defensemen; click here for the alignment they showed at practice Thursday.
— Their vitals: End of the road for the Ducks. They’re the lone NHL team whose season ends tonight, and with 78 points through their first 81 games, they’ll finish with their fewest (non-lockout season) points since totaling 76 in 2003-04. (Anaheim’s weakest point haul was 37 in the 48-game 1994-95 season, which pro-rates to 63 points in 82 games.)
Jonathan Gibson, who is 9-4-0 in 14 career games against the Kings with a 1.88 goals-against average, a .932 save percentage and two shutouts, is the projected starter. The Ducks will welcome Brendan Guhle (oblique) back to the lineup for the first time since March 5, while Josh Manson (upper-body) isn’t expected to play. Troy Terry (leg fracture), Ryan Kesler (hip) and Ondrej Kase (shoulder) are out.
— Anaheim’s broadcast will be carried on Prime Ticket, but FOX Sports West Plus will air the Los Angeles broadcast. You can find that on COX at 84/410; DISH at 451 and in HD at 9539, Hopper at 412-39, DirectTV at 692-1 (SD and HD) and U-verse 693 at HD 1693 in addition to FOX Sports GO.
— Since the Ducks entered the NHL in 1993-94, neither of Southern California’s teams has ever swept all games of the Freeway Faceoff. The Kings came close in 2001-02, winning four games and tying the fifth. But with wins in each of the three games to date – two in regulation and once in a shootout – Los Angeles will be able to go a perfect four-for-four tonight. Willie Desjardins smiled when asked about it, apparently not wanting to provide any unnecessary fodder within a rivalry in which neither team has much of a platform to roost. “I haven’t even thought about it,” he said.
Tyler Toffoli wouldn’t mind the consolation.
“I think it would be a good feeling,” he said. “We wish we were winning all four games and then going into the playoffs, but I’ve never won all four or five against them, so there’s also a sense of pride in the rivalry that we’ve had over the years since I’ve been in the league.”
Los Angeles is 63-51-26 all-time in head-to-head meetings and 6-2-2 in the last 10.
— Campbell, on any commonality between his performances last week in Calgary and Tuesday in Glendale, Arizona: “Just [teammates] being hard in front of the net. I don’t think either game they had a lot of redirections, and if you look back at the other Arizona game, they scored a lot of goals just tipping pucks, and they’re really good at it. It’s not just something they do. If guys are really hard in front of the net lifting sticks, getting physical, it makes my job a lot easier, and they did a heck of a job at that.”
Really, if searching for a commonality, the string of solid play stretches well beyond the Calgary game.
“I feel like he’s played like that ever since he’s been up, so I think he’s just been consistent for us. He gives us a chance to win every night,” Jonathan Quick said.
“He was on it [against Arizona]. He was reading it well.”
— An added perk that 13 of Dustin Brown’s 22 goals have been scored at Staples Center? That’s 13 opportunities to hear Kris Kross’ Jump. “I liked Kris Kross growing up, for sure,” Brown said. “I don’t have a goal [song] – I was just ‘eh,’” he said of his motivation behind the 1992 hip hop classic.
Brown never got in the habit of wearing his clothes backwards in the style of both Kris and Kross, even though such things would have been acceptable for a eight-year-old. “I think my brother had the cassette – we just listened to it a lot.”
— New Jersey lost in Carolina last night and sits one point in front of Los Angeles with only one game remaining: Saturday night in Florida. Their 10 road wins are the fewest in the NHL.
In the event that both the Kings and Devils finish tied in points and regulation/overtime wins, the next tiebreaker to apply – because the two teams split the season-series – is overall goal differential, which New Jersey would need to make up some ground in to finish with the second-best lottery odds. Entering play Friday, Los Angeles has a minus-61 differential, New Jersey -54.
Were the Kings to finish 30th, they’d have a 13.5% chance at the first overall pick and a 38.8% chance for a top-three pick. Were they to finish 29th, they’d have an 11.5% chance for the first pick and a 33.9% chance for a top-three pick.
The draft lottery will be televised live on NBCSN at 5:00 p.m. PT on Tuesday, April 9.
— More to come later today, Insiders. Tonight’s officials are referees Chris Lee and Ghislain Hebert and linesmen Vaughan Rody and Michel Cormier. Let’s talk soon, Insiders.
— Lead photo via Harry How/Getty Images