The Anaheim Ducks just clinched the Pacific Division crown, and now they have their sights set on a much bigger prize.
In their final road game before the playoffs, the Ducks take on the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night with a chance to lock up the top seed in the Western Conference.
Anaheim (52-20-8) has posted back-to-back first-place finishes for the first time in team history after beating San Jose 5-2 on Wednesday. Teemu Selanne assisted on both of Patrick Maroon’s goals and John Gibson made 36 saves.
"It’s great, but it’s also only the first step in what we want to do," said forward Corey Perry, who has six goals and four assists over the last seven games. "We reached a goal that we set for ourselves, but we have bigger goals."
Anaheim will have home-ice advantage through at least the first two rounds of the playoffs and can secure it for an appearance in the conference final by earning a single point against the Kings.
"Home barn is always important," Selanne said. "I personally believe in home sweet home, but the main thing is we want to finish the season strong, and this game was a big step in that."
The Ducks have been neck-and-neck with St. Louis and Colorado for the No. 1 spot, but the Blues and Avalanche both lost in regulation Friday night. Anaheim’s 112 points are the most in franchise history, surpassing the 2006-07 Stanley Cup-winning club.
"We have a big, strong physical team up front that protects pucks well," Maroon told the team’s official website. "When we play our game, we can see it: We’re pretty successful. We clog up the middle in the neutral zone. When we get pucks deep, we grind the team D and we create our chances."
It remains to be seen how coach Bruce Boudreau plans to use Gibson going forward. The 20-year-old became the youngest player to post a shutout in his NHL debut since 1985 with 18 saves in Monday’s 3-0 win at Vancouver.
"You know he’s going to be a good goalie," Boudreau said. "It’s a little bit of a gamble sometimes. My thoughts were the second game. The first game (there’s) your adrenaline and your emotion. It’s your first game. Will there be a letdown? And there didn’t seem to be much of a letdown for him. I don’t know what we’re going to do now."
While Gibson has shined, teammate Jonas Hiller has posted a 4.16 goals-against average during an 0-2-1 skid. Hiller has followed a franchise-record 14-start winning streak by going 6-9-3 in his last 18.
Hiller had gone 0-5-2 with a 3.25 GAA in Los Angeles before stopping 36 shots in a 3-0 win there Jan. 25. Anaheim also won 2-1 at Staples Center on March 15, its third consecutive victory in the series.
The playoff-bound Kings (46-28-7) completed a 1-2-1 road trip by beating Edmonton 3-0 on Thursday. Marian Gaborik had two goals and an assist while Anze Kopitar notched one of each.
"We wanted to have a good start and obviously scoring in the first minute helps,” said Kopitar, who scored 27 seconds in. "Right now we just want to sharpen our game for pretty much a week from now so we’re ready to go in the playoffs."
Rookie Martin Jones stopped 17 shots in recording his fourth shutout. He has gone 4-2-0 with a 2.01 GAA in his last six games, but the Kings could turn back to No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick in this one.
Quick is 4-1-0 with a 1.19 GAA and two shutouts in his last five at home. He’s 5-1-0 with a 1.63 GAA in his past six home matchups with Anaheim after making 18 saves Jan. 25.