LOS ANGELES — In a little more than 24 hours, the Ducks went from a team just trying to get into the playoffs to one that clinched home-ice advantage in the first round.
That's how close the Western Conference playoff race was this season.
The Ducks made the sizable leap with two consecutive victories against the Kings, 2-1, on Friday night at Honda Center, and 3-1 on Saturday at Staples Center.
“We found a way to get ourselves into a good position,” said Ducks coach Randy Carlyle. “You’ve got to credit our players. They’re the ones who put it on the line night in and night out. It’s about a team that’s trying to work it’s way through all the hurdles that’s been presented and now we have an opportunity to play at home."
Just down the hall, the coaches and players for the Kings tried to keep a happy face on the latest series of events. The Kings had a chance to clinch home ice by winning the final two games against the Ducks but couldn’t overcome their hobbled offense, which saw its two leading scorers go down with significant injuries in the final three weeks of the season.
“We had a chance to finish fourth and now we’re seventh or eighth,” said Kings captain Dustin Brown. “But, at the end of the day, we’re in the playoffs. It’s a new season, everyone can hit the reset button and get ready to go because, now, all the 82 games are irrelevant.”
The Kings will finish seventh if Chicago loses to Detroit in regulation on Sunday morning. They will fall to eighth if Chicago wins, sending them to Vancouver for the opening round of the playoffs either Wednesday or Thursday.
A victory by Chicago would also leapfrog the Blackhawks ahead of Nashville and Phoenix and into fifth, matching them against the Ducks beginning Wednesday or Thursday at Honda Center. A loss by Chicago and the Ducks would host Nashville.
“I don’t think anyone picked us for home-ice advantage at any point, but it’s funny how things fall into your lap when you win your fair share of games,” Carlyle said. “It’s back to our players. They’ve worked extremely hard and stayed committed.”
Kings coach Terry Murray was upbeat when he looked back at the mad scramble down the stretch.
“It’s absolutely incredible what’s gone on here the last couple weeks of the season,” he said. “That’s what’s so exciting about it … it’s great for the fans to come and watch the competition because it’s as good as it's going to get.
“It’s unfortunate we didn’t control our own destiny by winning the last couple of games here, but you now have to move on and get ready for the playoffs.”
The Kings will be moving on, all right. As far as the Ducks, they'll be sleeping in their own beds next week.