The last time these two teams met was in May at the handshake line at the Honda Center. There, the Los Angeles Kings had eliminated their crosstown in a hard-fought seven-game Western Semi-Final series. But the Ducks, while parting some significant talent, added a few key players as they hope to avenge themselves this season.
Despite finishing last regular season on top of the Western Conference standings with 116 points, they Anaheim Ducks were not able to get past the second round, courtesy of the aforementioned. But among their additions thiseason, the two biggest were Ryan Kesler and veteran Dany Heatley.
As exciting as Kesler's addition looks to fans in Anaheim, fans of the Kings ought to be just as excited as there is no love lost between said fanbase and the 29-year-old. After all, Kesler was never popular in Los Angeles from his days with the hated Vancouver Canucks. But you do have to give credit where it's due and with Anaheim's big acquisition, they bring in a player who scored 25 goals and added 18 assists in 77 games last season.
On paper, Ryan Kesler will surely excel with his new club, but that all depends on who he'll be paired up with on the ice and hopefully, for both the sakes of the centerman and the Ducks, some chemistry can be developed quickly. After all, the Ducks did send bona fide goal-scorer Nick Bonino the other way to Vancouver.
As for Dany Heatley, the Anaheim Ducks are essentially playing with house money on this one. The Ducks signed Heatley to a one-year deal as they are hoping that the 33-year-old can revive his career. If he's matched up with Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, then Heatley could very well have the same type of rebound season that Dustin Penner had last year. Something like this is just what Heatley needs. After notching back-to-back 50-goal seasons in 2005-06 and 2006-07, the former all-star has seen his goal production steadily decrease in each year since, which indludes a combined 24 goals over the last two campaigns. On the plus side, with Dany Heatley's size (6' 4, 220 pounds), the Ducks are hoping they can keep up with the Kings on a physical level.
But as promising as their additions look, which also include defenseman Clayton Stoner and center Nate Thompson, I wonder how the Ducks with fare minus those who have departed, which includes the aforementioned Nick Bonino.
The newest Canuck scored 22 goals and 27 assists with a +14 in 77 games last year. Specifically, Bonino was one of the biggest Achilles' heels for the Los Angeles Kings last season as they were arguably the team Bonino was most successful against. Another key subtraction is the now-retired Teemu Selanne who, despite only playing in 64 games last season, scored nine goals and 18 assists while still maintaining as the consummate leader on and off the ice. Speaking of leadership, the Ducks also parted ways with veteran Saku Koivu who may prove to be a bigger loss than anticipated.
"We expect [Getzlaf-Kesler] to be as good a 1-2 center [combination] as there is and we can put him against any team that we match up," Boudreau told NHL.com. "[But] I don’t look at it as, 'OK, all of a sudden we've gotten so much better.' We lost Nick Bonino, who scored 22 goals, and Mathieu Perreault scored 18 goals. We're hoping that Kesler and Nate Thompson can make that up. If they don't make that up they can do other things on the ice.
"I haven't seen anything yet. I want to see how it looks in training camp but I think it should be great."
After letting Jonas Hiller go to Calgary, the Ducks have cleared up their goaltending issue as Frederik Andersen and wunderkind John Gibson will each man the fort at the Honda Center. With that said, both netminders are still relatively inexperienced which would lead many to believe that the state of the team's netminding is, for lack of a better term, a crapshoot. Andersen would be the projected No. 1 as of now but that could change soon after the season starts. Plus, the Ducks knew they could benefit from leadership, and even some depth, which is why former Los Angeles goaltender Jason Labarbera was added over the summer.
Despite the addition of the aforementioned Clayton Stoner, the Ducks do not have the quality defenive unit needed to make a serious championship run this season, but that certainly doesn't mean that they can't.
Last season, the Kings were just 1-3-1 against Anaheim, but they did make up for it in the playoffs. But now with Los Angeles having captured their second Stanley Cup in three years, the Ducks are, for the first time in their existence, behind their crosstown rivals in the championship count. That certainly has to be a bitter pill to swallow for the Ducks and their fans. With that said, there is no better time to add a little more motivation in their quest to the top. After all, with that, in addition to their off-season acquisitions, the Kings, while they shouldn't be scared by any stretch of the imagination, should at least proceed with caution. The Ducks will come to play this season. Whether they can seek revenge against the Kings, that is another question that will take many months to answer.