Anaheim Ducks (Last week: 2-0-1)
Hey, they Ducks won a game!
The Ducks rebounded from their terrible, horrible, no good very bad start with wins over the Vancouver Canucks and Phoenix Coyotes, along with a shootout loss to the Atlanta Thrashers. They were led by their all-everything center Ryan Getzlaf, who had 8 points (2 goals, 6 assists) in the 3 games. The Ducks are going to go as far as Ryan Getzlaf can carry them; they aren't very deep and they still allow too many shots (37 shots in the 3 games), but they can outscore the opposition. If you're a Ducks fan, you're either excited that Getzlaf has shaken off his rough start or a little worried that apparently he has to play out of his mind in order for the Ducks to win.
The Ducks also made a few moves this week, first bringing in Andreas Lilja to mitigate the loss of Andy Sutton (out 6-8 weeks with a broken hand) on defense, then waiving Brendan Mikkelson and losing him to the Calgary Flames. Lilja is a pretty good signing for the Ducks: he's slow and he takes too many penalties, but he is a fantastic penalty killer. Losing Mikkelson is troubling, however. The 23-year old had looked promising when paired with Lubomir Visnovsky and had averaged over 19 minutes a game in the Ducks' first 5 games. The Ducks waived Mikkelson so they could keep Paul Mara, Andy Sutton, Andreas Lilja and Sheldon Brookbank. Those 4 players are redundant and, more importantly, none of them have a long-term future with the club. Brookbank is the youngest at 30 (he's all the worst of the 4) and one or two of those players will be sitting in the press box once Sutton gets healthy. Why get rid of a 23-year old when you're not going anywhere? Unless...
Does Bob Murray think the Ducks are making the playoffs?
Los Angeles Kings (Last week: 1-0)
The Kings are fine and had a good week, so this ranking is really for the NHL scheduling committee. Really, guys? You're going to have the Kings play one time in eight days during the one time of the year when Staples Center is actually open? Thanks, I'm sure the Kings will appreciate this break when they're playing 8 games on the road because of Cirque de Soleil in February. Anyway, the Kings are done resting, as they have 6 games in the next 9 days. ...Seriously, you scheduling people suck.
The two most important battles to watch as the Kings take the ice will be the battle for 1st line left wing and bottom-pairing defenseman. Last week Terry Murray moved Ryan Smyth off the 1st line to give the Kings more secondary scoring and since then the line of Smyth - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams has been on a tear. The Kings just really need a placeholder on the 1st line, someone who can play defense and chip the puck up the boards to Anze Kopitar or Dustin Brown. Right now that spot is held by Andrei Loktionov, the diminutive Russian, but that could change night-by-night.
The other spot to watch is the spot alonside Matt Greene when he comes back from his shoulder injury (expected to be sometime this weekend). The two combatants are Davis Drewiske and Jake Muzzin. Drewiske is older and arguably more steady, while Muzzin seems like he'll fit in with Greene better. If I had to guess, I'd say Muzzin will play with Greene, since Muzzin is on the 2nd power play unit and Greene can't play that spot. Muzzin is young and somewhat raw but he fits Terry Murray's system perfectly. Muzzin and Greene would make a dynamic and fun bottom pairing.
Thursday: Anaheim Ducks @ Philadelphia Flyers, 4:00PM; Los Angeles Kings @ Phoenix Coyotes, 7:00PM
Monday: Los Angeles Kings @ Minnesota Wild, 5:00PM
Tuesday: Anaheim Ducks @ Dallas Stars, 6:00PM