This is it. The regular season ends Sunday, but for the Ducks, it could end tonight if they lose to the Kings. Only a win can keep their playoff hopes alive. All they can control is what they do, but there will be a lot of focus on Colorado, as well.
Colorado is the only team that the Ducks can catch, but this is dependent upon a lot of factors all working out right. The Ducks would have to win every single game in order to get 93 points. Colorado has 91 points currently, but even one loss by the Ducks and Colorado would win the tie-breaker in wins.
If Colorado wins just one more out of their final four games, it does not matter what the Ducks do, because Colorado would have more wins. Tonight, Colorado plays Vancouver and the game starts at the same time as the Ducks/Kings game. You can bet there will be some score watching this evening.
Let’s make believe that everything aligns correctly and the Ducks win every game and the Avs lose every game. There is still the matter of Calgary and St. Louis to contend with. Calgary has 89 points and St. Louis 87 and both teams still have three more games to play.
The Kings have already clinched a playoff spot and both the Kings and Ducks have never been in the playoffs during the same year. The Kings would be more than happy to knock the Ducks out for certain.
Adding to more uncertainty is who will be starting in goal for the Ducks. Curtis McElhinney has been terrific for the Ducks, going 5-0-1 in the past six games. He has a 1.91 GAA and .939 save percentage during that time, solid, strong numbers that have kept the Ducks in the hunt. McElhinney has been in net since Jonas Hiller had back spasms.
Hiller began skating and practicing with the team on Monday and he will have to see how his back holds up after the morning skate and warm ups. If he feels good enough to go, coach Randy Carlyle will have a difficult decision. Do you put in your number one guy, who hasn’t played in two weeks, or do you go with the hot hand? Logic says Carlyle would use Hiller, because you go with the number one guy in a must-win situation. Either way, Carlyle does not mind having the difficult decision to make, knowing he can be confident with either goaltender in net.