Looking for elusive 3rd straight win, Ducks visit Kings
The Anaheim Ducks are back in Southern California for the next four weeks, but their season has ventured back into uncharted waters.
For just the second time this season, the Ducks will bring a two-game winning streak into a game when they visit the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, the final stop on a five-game road trip that will be followed by 10 games at home.
Anaheim hasn’t won three in a row this season. In fact, the Ducks owned just one win in regulation through their first 30 games before winning their past two without needing overtime.
“I think we’re playing a little more hungry, a little more competitive, and I think that’s leading to our success,” Ducks rookie forward Mason McTavish said.
McTavish, the third overall pick in the 2021 NHL Draft, has played a key role in Anaheim’s recent success. He has two assists in each of the past two games and seven in the past eight.
He was moved to center last month after beginning the season on the wing, and that has made a difference in his contributions.
“That wasn’t the plan to start the year, but we were able to get him some reps and he just looked way more comfortable there,” Ducks coach Dallas Eakins said of the move to center.
Eakins said it’s not just McTavish’s playmaking ability that has blossomed, but other areas that are key to playing center at the NHL level have improved as well.
“He’s starting to win faceoffs now. I’m putting him out there on some penalty-kill faceoffs, some important D-zone faceoffs,” Eakins said. “He’s really slowly turning into a very well-rounded player. He’s got lots of offense in him, but the thing that is maybe going to separate him from some others is his whole 200-foot game.”
The Kings returned from a six-game road trip and beat the San Jose Sharks 3-2 in a shootout on Saturday night, their second straight shootout victory.
“The fact that we stuck with it to the end of the night and got pretty good efforts from a lot of players was a real good sign for us,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.
McLellan said if the Kings continue to play the way they did in the past two games, they can string together some much-needed wins.
“I think we’re just in the middle of the test right now,” he said. “I don’t think we can grade the paper one bit.”
The key, McLellan said, won’t be how many goals the Kings allow in the coming games, but how the goals are generated by the opposing teams.
“We might get scored on four times in the next, whatever. … if they’re legitimate goals that they break us down, then great,” McLellan said. “But if we’re gifting goals, wide-open play — high-risk, low-reward situational play that comes back to bite us — then we haven’t learned that lesson yet.”
The Kings may opt to stick with the hot hand in goal and start Pheonix Copley for a fourth straight game.
He made 23 saves and allowed just one goal in the shootout to help Los Angeles beat the Sharks on Saturday night.
Copley was recalled from Ontario of the AHL on Dec. 1.
–Field Level Media