With an eight-point cushion and 10 games left, it seems like the Anaheim Ducks have a safe lead atop the Pacific Division.
Coach Bruce Boudreau isn't so sure.
The Ducks look to take another step toward their first division title in six years with Sunday's visit from the Los Angeles Kings, who would love to continue their recent hot stretch by pulling closer to their crosstown rivals.
Anaheim (25-8-5) built a 12-point lead in the Pacific with its 22-3-4 start, then lost four straight in regulation before earning seven points from its next four games.
The Ducks are hoping Friday's 3-1 loss to Dallas isn't the start of another poor stretch as it chases its first Pacific crown since its run to the Stanley Cup in 2006-07. They're eight points ahead of the Kings (22-13-3) for the division lead and nine points up on San Jose, but Los Angeles certainly has Boudreau's full attention.
"It's pretty hard to treat it like another game," he told the Ducks' official website. "It's the Kings versus the Ducks. And more importantly right now, they're nipping at our heels for the division championship. They might look they're (eight) points back now, but in a hurry that can drop."
Boudreau concerns seem to have some validity. The Kings have won six of the eight meetings since the start of last season, though Anaheim matched its best offensive performance of the season with a 7-4 home win Feb. 2.
Los Angeles returned the favor Feb. 25 at Staples Center, scoring three third-period goals in a 5-2 victory.
"I think, and I've always thought this, that they're the best team in the league for us to play against," Boudreau said. "There's nothing to sway me from thinking that. They're a challenge and they're starting to rev it up. It'll be a real test."
It'll be even tougher for the Ducks if Ryan Getzlaf can't go. Anaheim's captain left Wednesday's 5-2 win over the Stars with a lower-body injury after recording a goal and two assists, then missed Friday's loss.
He's considered day to day, but Getzlaf hasn't had a great impact against Los Angeles in recent seasons. His lone goal in his last 13 games in the series came in the 7-4 win in February.
The Kings have gone 5-1-1 in their last seven games and rose to fourth in the Western Conference with Saturday's 3-1 win over Edmonton, but coach Darryl Sutter wanted no part of saying his team could catch Anaheim.
"When you get off to that type of lead, it's impossible to make it up, so we just concentrate on us,' Sutter said.
Anze Kopitar wasn't as coy.
"At this point in the season, you take a peek (at the standings) once in a while,' Kopitar said. "The way it is right now, every time you win a game, you move up, and when you lose, you move back down. ... We just have to keep going.'
Kopitar has four assists in the season series with Anaheim while linemate Dustin Brown has three goals and an assist.
The Ducks might want to pay special attention to Justin Williams and Jeff Carter on Sunday, though. Carter scored Saturday and has four goals in his last five games, while Williams had an assist despite seeing his five-game goal-scoring streak end.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
All Rights Reserved