Ducks, Kings begin playoffs under different circumstances

When the Los Angeles Kings began play on Saturday night,
their hopes for home ice in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs were
gone as the St. Louis Blues were comfortably ahead of the Chicago

Instead, the Kings finished as the fifth seed in the Western Conference after defeating the San Jose Sharks, 3-2, on Saturday. They’ll have to begin their quest to another Stanley Cup title on the road.

Los Angeles will open up at the St. Louis Blues, a team they have defeated eight
consecutive times, including last year’s second-round playoff sweep.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter is quick to remind
that this is a different Blues team.

“They’re an improved team obviously from the last time we played them in
the regular season. In addition to Jay
Bouwmeester and Jordan Leopold on defense (acquired at the trade deadline), probably
the biggest difference would be they were down to one goalie last year after
splitting throughout the regular season. I think that really affected the team, and now they are clear on who
their goalie is,” Sutter said.

Last year’s Kings
team suffered only one road loss in their quest for the Stanley Cup. This regular season, the road has not been too kind
to the Stanley Cup Champions, who finished in the bottom third in the NHL in road records.

Los Angeles
won only eight times in 24 road tries during the regular season and lost their
last six road contests to close out the season.

Down in Anaheim, the Ducks ended the regular season with a
5-3 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes
. The game marked what will
likely be Teemu Selanne’s final regular season home game.

“I’m happy this is over,” Selanne said. “Now it’s the best time
of the year (the playoffs), starting right now.”

The Ducks, who are the second seed in the Western
Conference, will open up at home against a familiar playoff foe in the Detroit
Red Wings.

The two teams have met six
times in the playoffs, most recently in 2009 when the Red Wings defeated the
Ducks four games to three in a hard fought second round series. 

While the Ducks have been operating on cruise control for
the past two weeks after clinching of the Pacific Division, the Red
Wings have been playing playoff-type hockey for the past month and did not
clinch a berth in the post season until the final day of the regular season,
downing the Dallas Stars, 3-0.

If defense wins championships, Anaheim could have their
hands full in their opening round match up. The Red Wings have given up just
six goals in their last seven games.