Colorado's Ryan O'Byrne checks Anaheim's Daniel Winnik… (Rick Loomis / Los Angeles…)
Despite winning three straight games and five of their last six, the Kings aren't the NHL's hottest team. They're not even the hottest team in Southern California.
The Ducks, who will face the Kings on Monday at Staples Center, have the league's longest active winning streak at six -- all come-from-behind victories -- and have won 10 of 11 to rank second in the NHL with 27 points. But to have both the Kings and Ducks playing well as they meet for the second time this season should make this encounter far more than just another game in February.
"To me, it's the ultimate test," Ducks Coach Bruce Boudreau said Sunday after his team improved to 13-2-1 with a 4-3 overtime victory over Colorado at Honda Center.
"They're playing like they played in the playoffs last year. I watch every one of their games and they're just flat-out good. And [Jonathan] Quick is good and he's playing like he's the Conn Smythe Trophy winner. ... They're as good a test as you're going to find in this game today."
The Kings (8-6-2) also see this as a challenge.
"To see them up there, a team in our division, a team that I think all of us in here feel for sure that we're a better team than them, that kind of makes us frustrated and not happy with the way our season's gone so far," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "I think this is a good chance to start getting it turned around."
The Ducks routed the Kings, 7-4, on Feb. 2 in their first matchup. "They were not at the top of their game yet," Ducks winger Teemu Selanne said charitably. "This is going to be a good test."
The Kings have tightened up defensively, yielding only one goal in each of their last three games. The Ducks have ramped up their scoring and are averaging four goals per game during their winning streak. But they still stumble through slow starts that force them to rally.
"That's not really the game plan," Selanne said.
No matter. The Ducks kept their streak alive, adding intrigue to Monday's game.
"You've got two teams with some confidence and getting some wins -- and scoring some goals, finally. I'm looking forward to it," Kings center Jarret Stoll said. "They're where we want to be, though. Also, we lost two points to them earlier in the season, so that's something else on our minds."
And you are?
Brian Burke was surprised when he pulled into the parking lot at Honda Center on Sunday and was told he'd have to pay.
"I used to work here," said Burke, who was the general manager of the Ducks' 2007 Stanley Cup championship team but left in 2008 to become the Toronto Maple Leafs' general manager.
Burke's name was on the parking list, allowing him to arrive on time for a news conference where he explained his decision to take a part-time pro scouting job with the Ducks six weeks after the Maple Leafs fired him. One reason, he said, was the comfort of his history with Ducks General Manager Bob Murray and owners Henry and Susan Samueli.
"We've had some success. And I was anxious to get back with a team and I'm going to do everything I can to help Murph and help the Ducks," Burke said, referring to Murray.
Essentially, it's a soft landing for Burke until he can get another general manager's job. "That's still the goal," said Burke, who plans to watch the Ducks this week before traveling to Norfolk, Va., to monitor their farm team.
Burke, who will be based in Toronto, remains an advisor to the Maple Leafs' board and said the NHL approved his dual jobs. "It's not a hockey operations role, so there's no conflict there of me offering advice to one team and conflicting advice to another team," he said.
San Jose's Ryane Clowe is scheduled to have an in-person disciplinary hearing with the NHL on Monday. At issue is whether he left the bench on a line change or came onto the ice illegally Friday to fight Chicago's Andrew Shaw after Shaw hit San Jose forward Joe Pavelski. Clowe, suspended for San Jose's game at Dallas on Saturday, could be gone for 10 games.
According to a report on "Hockey Night in Canada," realignment for next season will group Detroit and Columbus with Eastern teams and Winnipeg with Western teams. The four still-unnamed conferences: Group A: Boston, Buffalo, Detroit, Florida, Montreal, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Toronto. Group B: Carolina, Columbus, New Jersey, New York Rangers, New York Islanders, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Washington. Group C: Chicago, Colorado, Dallas, Minnesota, Nashville, St. Louis, Winnipeg. Group D: Ducks, Kings, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Phoenix, and San Jose. Each team will play every other team in the league home-and-home.
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PLUS AND MINUS
Times columnist Helene Elliott rates the pluses and minuses in the NHL from the previous week: