Daily News Kings host Ducks with no one backing off in Freeway Faceoff finale


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
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The final installment of this season’s Freeway Faceoff will unfold Saturday at Crypto.com Arena, where the Kings will welcome the Ducks.

When they last clashed Tuesday at Honda Center, the Ducks spoiled the Kings’ chances to clinch a playoff berth and added intrigue to the season series with a 3-1 win. Though the Kings have since clinched, they were still not locked into a specific first-round matchup Friday while the Ducks, whose playoff hopes went from slim to nonexistent long ago, could salvage five out of a possible eight points against the rival Kings in the season series.

That should fire up the split crowd, which was boisterous in Anaheim earlier in the week.

“I can’t hear what they’re saying back and forth, but it’s got a little bit of that soccer-match mentality. It’s a fun game to coach in,” Ducks coach Greg Cronin said.

Although Kings interim coach Jim Hiller said he still viewed the Kings’ remaining three games, all against non-playoff teams, “as if we’re in a playoff race,” his players made little of the jockeying around for seeding or any desire to face a particular opponent in the postseason. Viktor Arvidsson spoke of his experience making the Stanley Cup Final as a wild card with the Nashville Predators, while captain Anze Kopitar, who won two Cups and went to a third conference finals series, echoed his sentiment about the relative unimportance of positioning.

“You want to be feeling good going into the playoffs,” Kopitar said. “I’ve gone in as an 8 seed, I’ve gone in as a 2 or 3 seed, whatever it was, so it’s [about] going in feeling good at the right time and just kind of putting a streak together.”

Kopitar said he would “like to get some rest” but not “lay down and not be in rhythm come the first game of the playoffs.” Hiller addressed the potential to disencumber Kopitar as well the NHL’s time-on-ice leader, Drew Doughty, now that the playoffs were a certainty.

“If they’re playing, they want to play. They play a lot of minutes and they always want to play more, I know that. We’re not going to try to manage anybody that way,” Hiller said. “We’ll be very cognizant of the bumps and bruises, that would be the only thing that would probably take somebody’s minutes down … otherwise, we’re playing to win.”

Doughty’s assist in Thursday’s 4-1 clinching victory over Calgary brought him to 29 even-strength points, the second most he’s had in a campaign since his career began in 2008. He had 39 even-strength points in 2017-18, when he finished second in the Norris Trophy voting to Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman.

In addition to his overall scoring, Doughty entered the game against the Ducks a goal shy of his career high (16, set in 2009-10) and, more importantly, as the league leader in defensive rating. Nevertheless, he was not among the top 10 shortest odds among defensemen for the Norris Trophy, which he won in 2016, at most sportsbooks.

“I wasted a lot of time thinking about the Norris and not getting credit for what I thought I deserved,” Doughty said after last week’s win over Vancouver. “As I’ve grown older, [I’ve realized that] you’ve just got to not think about those things, just go out there, play your game, help the guys win games and, really, that’s all that matters.”

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While the Ducks are taking on the Kings, their own crown jewel, Cutter Gauthier, might be celebrating a national title.

He and his Boston College Eagles will face the Denver Pioneer on Saturday. While BC has put more players into the NHL overall, it will be Denver with more alumni in the Freeway Faceoff, with the Kings’ leading goal-scorer, Trevor Moore, and the Ducks’ top sniper from two seasons ago, Troy Terry, both pulling for the Pioneers to earn their 10th national title, which would be the most of any program in NCAA history.


When: Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

Where: Crypto.com Arena

TV: Bally Sports West, Bally Sports SoCal

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