The Los Angeles Kings are as hot as they have ever been. Yes, Gretzky-era hot. Marcel Dionne-hot.
They have won seven straight (five of those on the road, as they were forced out of Staples for the Grammys and Lady Gaga’s headwear). The club record is eight — done once in the Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Barry Melrose and his mullet season of 1991-92. It was also done in the 1972-73 season, before Dionne and the glory early years of the Kings even started.
To reach that record, the Kings need to beat the Ducks on Thursday night at Staples Center. Nothing would make Kings fans happier. But it’s not going to be that simple.
The Ducks have won three straight and are now just three points out of a playoff spot. They have been a team playing with a lot of passion of late.
And they can thank their goalie for some of that: Jonas Hiller can carry the Ducks for a while. He did against the Detroit Red Wings the other night, with 46 saves to help the Ducks to a 3-1 win. That was a big win — the Red Wings are one of the teams the Ducks need to catch to make the postseason. Hiller is worth the $18 million deal the Ducks just signed him to.
The Kings have a hot goalie too in Jonathon Quick. He has won seven games in a row in net (Kelly Hrudy did that for Los Angeles) and has a 1.95 goals-against average and .931 save percentage in that stretch.
Both of these teams are sending a lot of their hot players to Vancouver for the Olympics. Quick will be joined by defenseman Jack Johnson and forward Dustin Brown on Team USA. The Ducks Bobby Ryan will join them. Overall, there are a dozen guys from the local teams -- seven Ducks and five Kings -- who will represent their countries in Vancouver.
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But first there are the NHL games to play, and so far this season, the Kings have taken both games from the Ducks and dominated the rivalry. But a hot goalie is like a hot pitcher in baseball — he can pitch a shutout and get a win against anyone on any night.
Of course, both teams have the hot hand Thursday night, which should make this clash interesting.