The Anaheim Ducks will have a lot of time off in the near future. Along with All-Star weekend providing a break, the next few weeks will be spent making up games from the last month or so that were postponed due to COVID-19 outbreaks within organizations. What was initially planned to be a break while the best in the world gathered in Beijing for the 2022 Winter Olympics has now turned into a busy multi-week period to narrow the gap in games between teams.
The Ducks have been relatively fortunate that many of their games weren’t postponed outside of the league-mandated shutdown around Christmas. The lack of cancellations and front-loaded schedule means that the Ducks won’t take the ice again until they play the Seattle Kraken on Feb. 11, followed by another longer break before heading north to play the Calgary Flames on Feb. 16. As a result, there will be plenty of hockey on for the next few weeks that won’t include the Ducks, but may impact where they sit in the standings. Here are three games to watch while the Ducks are on their extended break.
Los Angeles Kings at Detroit Red Wings – Feb. 2
Kings: 46 games played (GP) (23-16-7), 2 points behind Ducks
There aren’t a lot of playoff ramifications in an inter-conference game, but it’s time to recognize that the Kings and Ducks are on a collision course. Similar to the Ducks, the Kings shook off an inconsistent start to the season and find themselves in third place in the Pacific Division. Similar even still, it’s been a mix of young players exceeding and veteran players being up to the task. Captain Anze Kopitar once again leads the team in scoring, but the depth has been bolstered by a crop of younger prospects, including franchise gem Quinton Byfield.
The Ducks’ and Kings’ rebuilds have mirrored each other, and, if the first half of the season is any indicator, both teams are looking to return to the playoffs this year. The Pacific Division standings are in flux right now due to a gap in games played, but their current place in the standings would have the Ducks and Kings play against each other in the first round of the playoffs. This would only be the second playoff series between the regional rivals, with the Kings beating the Ducks in seven games in 2014. Even if the playoff series doesn’t come to fruition, both teams fighting for playoff spots that neither squad is guaranteed to earn will create a new chapter for this rivalry.
Vegas Golden Knights at Edmonton Oilers – Feb. 8
Golden Knights: 46 GP (27-16-3), 2 points ahead of Ducks
Oilers: 41 GP (22-16-3), 8 points behind Ducks
The Golden Knights have run the Pacific Division since entering the league in 2017. This season is no different, but their slower start to the year means that the Ducks are within shouting distance. As it stands, the Golden Knights have two more points in the standings in two fewer games played. As the Golden Knights introduce Jack Eichel into their lineup in the coming weeks, the likelihood of the upstart Ducks jumping them in the standings seems unlikely, but it will be something to look for in the second half of the season.
The Oilers will be a team to watch for the rest of the season. Much has been made about their free-fall coming out of the holiday break, but they’ve stabilized with a 4-0-1 record over their last five games (from, ‘Edmonton Oilers Hit Midway Mark of Season of Snakes and Ladders,’ Edmonton Sun, Feb. 1, 2022). Their point percentage in the standings is identical to the Ducks, but are seven points behind them with seven fewer games played. The Oilers’ schedule has been hit hard by a result of postponements due to COVID-19, and it complicates scoreboard-watching until they catch up. They’ll have a busy February to help narrow the gap. The Oilers play 12 games in February, compared to only seven for the Ducks. To this point, the Oilers have just reached the halfway point of the season at 41 games played.
Golden Knights at Calgary Flames – Feb. 9
Flames: 41 GP (22-13-6), 5 points behind Ducks
Vegas completes their Alberta-based back-to-back against the Flames. Like the Oilers, the Flames have been massively impacted by postponements over the last month and will have to play at a hurried pace to make up games. The team has played 41 games, and they have another 10 games to play before the end of February. Their winning percentage is second in the division behind the Golden Knights, but the lack of games played puts them currently in a wild card position. The lack of continuity in the schedule is undoubtedly difficult for head coach Darryl Sutter’s squad, but his team has shown enough to prove they’ll be a factor in the Pacific Division playoff race.
Scoreboard Watching: Kings, Oilers, Flames
In all likelihood, the final two playoff spots for the Pacific Division will come down to the Ducks, Kings, Oilers, and Flames. While one more may be salvaged by a wild card spot, that introduces challengers from a stacked Central Division as well. Because the number of games played varies so greatly between these teams, it’s difficult to get a good idea of who should actually be considered the front-runner. At the very least, this extended break for the Ducks can afford us a chance to look at these division rivals before what will be a close race to the end of the regular season.
I was born and raised in Mission Viejo, California, and currently live in Visalia, California. Graduated from CSUF in 2016 with a B.A. in Cinema and Television Arts. I’ve been a sports fan for my entire life, rooting for the Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Angels, Los Angeles Rams and Miami Heat. In my free time, I enjoy playing video games, trying to pour a perfect cup of coffee, and testing out a local craft beer.