The Anaheim Ducks have started the push that Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter predicted. Now they're bracing for the kind of physical matchup that has defined their rivalry with the Kings.
In the second meeting between the hard-hitting teams, the visiting Ducks hope to gain ground on the Pacific Division leaders while extending their longest winning streak in a year Thursday night.
"We just want to beat them, and they just want to beat us," Anaheim coach Bruce Boudreau told the team's official website.
After struggling to find consistency during a 12-15-5 start, the Ducks (23-18-7) have allowed a Western Conference-low 1.9 goals per game while going a West-best 11-3-2 since Dec. 22.
The offense also has picked up during a 6-1-0 stretch in which Anaheim has outscored foes 26-14. Ryan Garbutt, Hampus Lindholm and Rickard Rakell scored in Tuesday's 3-2 win over San Jose that extended its winning streak to four, matching a season high.
"Their penalty killing is outstanding and they have really good goaltending and they're pretty good down the middle of the ice," Sutter said. "It's just a matter of time before they started pushing."
Garbutt, acquired on Jan. 21, has been part of 15 consecutive victories dating to his time with Chicago. Rakell has three goals and two assists over his last five, including a goal in a 3-2 home loss to the Kings (31-16-3) on Jan. 17.
David Perron also scored in that contest, which was only Anaheim's second loss in the past 10 regular-season meetings. He had a four-game point streak (two goals, three assists) end Tuesday.
The Ducks look to put a dent in the Kings' 12-point advantage over them in the division. Four of the last matchups have resulted in a final score of 3-2.
"These are teams that play very similar," Anaheim center Ryan Kesler said. "Big bodies and a lot of hits. It's always a lot of fun to play in. ...We know how we need to play to win."
Los Angeles would like to go on its own surge after dropping three of its last five games, including its past two at Staples Center. Following Tuesday's 6-2 win at Arizona, the club will try to win two in a row for only the second time since a five-game winning streak from Dec. 26-Jan. 2.
Dustin Brown finished with two goals as the Kings went 3 for 7 on the power play en route to their highest scoring effort of the season. Vincent Lecavalier scored his second goal in three games and he's found the net in each of his last three versus Anaheim dating to his time with Philadelphia.
Anze Kopitar has totaled six goals and 10 points over a seven-game point streak in this series.
The Kings hope to build on their scoring outburst against projected starter John Gibson, who had 23 saves in the January loss. Gibson, however, has a 1.85 goals-against average in winning seven of his last 10 starts and Anaheim has killed all but two of its opponents' last 50 power plays.
Los Angeles goalie Jonathan Quick, who had 29 saves in the first meeting, stopped 23 shots Tuesday after he had gone 2-4-0 with a 3.02 GAA over his previous six games. He's 6-1-2 with a 1.82 GAA in his last nine regular-season home games against the Ducks.