Elimination looms for the Ducks, while the Kings get ready for playoffs
Game day notes from the Kings and Ducks….
The Ducks can be eliminated from playoff contention if they lose to the Kings tonight at the Honda Center, or if Colorado wins at Vancouver. Both games are scheduled to start shortly after 7 p.m.
The Kings clinched their spot on Sunday and will make their first postseason appearance since 2002. The Ducks made the playoffs each of the first four seasons after the lockout but were done in this season by a massive changeover in personnel -- some of it expected to pay off later rather than immediately -- and a 4-6-2 record in the month of October.
There will be time for rehashing things later, but winger Teemu Selanne has some ideas about what went wrong.
“You just want to look forward right now. We still have a little, little, little chance and as long as there’s a little chance, just keep believing,” he said. “Obviously it’s a very tough situation. But if you look back I think the critical thing was our start. When you put yourself so many points behind right away, it’s hard to come back. That has been the biggest thing.
“Other than that we played pretty well. It was a pretty normal season with ups and downs. After the Olympic break [losing] five games in a row -- that’s another thing. You can’t have those stretches. You can lose here and there a couple times, but not long.
“I think the start really hurt us. But we don’t think about anything else but tonight’s game and see what happens.”
For the Ducks, center Ryan Getzlaf (ankle) won’t be available. Goaltender Jonas Hiller, idled by back spasms, practiced but won’t play, Coach Randy Carlyle said.
The Kings will make one minor lineup change by sitting Scott Parse and replacing him with Rich Clune on the fourth line to go along with Raitis Ivanans and Brad Richardson.
“He’s an energy guy, a physical player,” Coach Terry Murray said of Clune. “And I’m going to have to get minutes out of them. As you get ready for the postseason play there’s going to be those games in any early part of a series where you’re going to have to have that kind of a line to play, and we’ll get it going here tonight.”
Kings defenseman Sean O’Donnell, who won the Stanley Cup with the Ducks in 2007, acknowledged he didn’t expect to see his former team miss the playoffs. As he sees it, losing Francois Beauchemin to free agency and trading Chris Pronger to the Flyers were among key reasons the Ducks have struggled this season.
“At the start I had them penciled in around sixth. I didn’t think they were at the level of Detroit, San Jose Chicago or even Vancouver, but I thought they were in the next group, with us. I thought we were all kind of in the next tier down,” O’Donnell said.
“I’m a little bit surprised, but they’ve played a lot of hockey the last three years or four years, and the transition they’ve had.…You lose a guy like Beauchemin who plays 25 minutes, you lose a guy like Pronger who plays 25 minutes, it’s tough to replace those guys. I’m not saying they were bad moves, because they’re getting up in age and they got some good young players, but looking back now, you can’t lose those kind of guys and expect to bounce back that year. I’m not saying two years down the road it’s not a good move, but it’s hard to replace those guys the next year.”
One more note: the past few days several members of the Kings who have not experienced playoff hockey said they had talked to Rob Scuderi, who won the Stanley Cup with the Penguins last spring and went to the finals the year before, about what the atmosphere will be like.
Scuderi said his message to them was simple.
“The No. 1 thing I learned when I was playing is every single little play matters,” he said. “It might just be we have the puck in the neutral zone and we have a chance to get it deep and a turnover can result in maybe a minute or two in your defensive zone. Whether it ends up in the goal or not, you’ve lost momentum, and those five guys stuck on the ice are tired for their next shift.
“Every little play matters. Every bad penalty, icing -- anything could be the difference in the game, and if everyone realizes that, it’s a good thing to know before you play one game.”
The goal is to play a lot of games -- two months’ worth. The Penguins last spring played 24 playoff games and won the Cup on June 12, a two-month odyssey that has to be experienced to be understood.
“That’s what makes it such an accomplishment,” Scuderi said. “To go two months and try to be as perfect as you can is not an easy thing to do, and that’s why it’s not an easy trophy to win.”
We’ll have more from the Honda Center later at www.latimes.com/sports
-- Helene Elliott