The Pacific Division-leading Anaheim Ducks would appear to have an advantage over nearly any opponent, especially one with a double-digit point deficit in the standings.
However, when the opponent is the Los Angeles Kings, that same logic may not apply.
The Ducks make the short trip to Staples Center on Saturday night for the third of five matchups with the Kings, who continue to trudge through an up-and-down campaign.
Anaheim (29-10-6) has found its rhythm over the past week, scoring four or more goals in each of its past three victories, including a 5-1 win over New Jersey on Friday.
Corey Perry scored his team-leading 19th goal and the Ducks also netted their fifth power-play tally in four contests.
"When we play for 60 minutes and we all play together, it’s a sense of what we can do," Bruce Boudreau told the team’s official website. "When we follow gameplans and do the right thing, its a good hockey club. When we don’t, we’re like any other club."
That offensive potency was present in a 6-5 shootout victory over Los Angeles (20-14-10) on Nov. 12, but went quiet three days later in a 3-2 overtime road loss to the Kings.
That victory was the first of three straight for Los Angeles, which has gone 9-9-6 since the brief surge and has won back-to-back games only twice in that span. The Kings lost for the sixth time in eight games Wednesday, 5-3 to the Devils.
"We just need more effort and a willingness to get it done," Matt Greene told the team’s official site. "I’m speaking for myself, but that’s what has to get better. Everybody has to get better, but it starts with yourself.
"The coaches have been doing a good job of breaking it down for us every night; it’s just a matter of us showing up and doing it."
Part of the issue has been an inability to win close games. The Kings have lost 10 of 12 that have gone past regulation and their win Nov. 15 was their most recent OT victory.
That problem could crop up again given these clubs’ recent history. Including shootouts, eight of the past nine regular-season matchups have been decided by one goal, as did four of their seven games in the Western Conference semifinals last season.
Los Angeles has also struggled on the penalty kill, surrendering seven goals over the last six games. The Kings are 5-11-6 when allowing a power-play goal.
"Our penalty kill is just draining us," coach Darryl Sutter said. "It takes so much out of your team. It is really disappointing."
Anaheim has taken five of its last six against the Kings, who still hold a slight edge since 2011-12 with nine victories over 17 meetings in that span.
"I think it’s huge," Boudreau said of the rivalry. "I know that word is overused a lot, but they’ve been sitting at home for three days, and I don’t think they’re happy with the way it’s been going. When they play us, we bring out the best in them."
Frederik Anderson has won each of his last four starts and is 2-0-1 in three career starts against Jonathan Quick, who owns a 2.49 goals-against average this season.
Perry and Ryan Getzlaf have combined for 35 goals in their 52 games against the Kings since ’05-06. The Kings can counter with their own top offensive weapons Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, who each have tallied 20 goals against the Ducks in their careers.
Brown scored against New Jersey to break a 17-game goal drought.