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Kings, Ducks are on different levels as they prepare to meet

Kings appear on the way to reaching the playoffs, but the Ducks have a lot of ground to make up.

December 25, 2010|By Helene Elliott

The Kings and Ducks, who will meet Sunday at Staples Center, have yet to make the playoffs the same season. The Kings are doing their part to make that happen, occupying sixth place in the West with games in hand on most of their rivals. But the Ducks are ninth entering the teams' second meeting this season and have played a league-high 38 games, one more than they had played at last year's Christmas break in a schedule that was condensed to accommodate the Olympic hiatus.

While the Ducks have some catching up to do — and fewer games in which to do it — the Kings appear to be in good shape. They're likely Sunday to regain rugged defenseman Matt Greene, who suffered a concussion Dec. 13, and they're about to begin what should be a busy but favorable section of the schedule.

"These points right up to the All-Star game are huge in here. After the All-Star game everything tightens up and points are hard to come by," center Anze Kopitar said after the Kings' 3-2 shootout victory over Edmonton on Thursday.

"Right now we're fortunate to play nine out of 11 at home, and these are going to be big games for us."

The Kings are 12-2-1 at home and their penalty killers have given up only three power-play goals at home in 53 times short-handed, a league-best 94.3% kill rate

The Ducks have lost three of their last four games and have given up the most shots against in the NHL, an average of 34.6 per game (the Kings rank sixth, at 28.3). Goaltender Jonas Hiller, who stopped 32 shots in the Ducks' 2-0 victory over the Kings on Nov. 29, has withstood the barrages well, compiling a .923 save percentage that ranks seventh in the NHL. He is 4-1-0 in his last five appearances, with a .957 save percentage and 1.38 goals-against average.

Slap shots

The Ducks have four prospects participating in the world junior championships, which start Sunday in Buffalo. In Sunday's games, defenseman Sami Vatanen of Finland will face forwards Emerson Etem of Long Beach and Kyle Palmieri of the defending champion U.S., and goaltender Igor Bobkov of Russia will face Canada. The Kings will have three prospects at the tournament. Center Brayden Schenn will be one of Canada's alternate captains, defenseman Derek Forbort, the Kings' first-round pick in June, will play for the U.S. and left wing Maxim Kitsyn will play for Russia.

The NHL Network will televise games involving the U.S. and medal-round games.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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