With nods to the past and glimpses toward the future over the past few days, the current four-game home-and-home series between the Anaheim Ducks and Los Angeles Kings will shift a short drive south Friday.
With both teams each winning a game at Los Angeles this week, the remaining two games of the four-game set will be contested at Anaheim. The first of those two is on Friday, one day after Ducks backup goaltender Ryan Miller announced his retirement effective at the end of the season.
“It was a dream come true when I played my first NHL game, and it has been a privilege to spend 18 years as a professional,” said Miller, who has the most victories of any U.S.-born goaltender at 390, grabbing the mark as a member of the Ducks in February of 2019.
If Miller is going to get one more game in front of a small gathering of home fans, it will have to take place Friday or Sunday against the Kings, when the home schedule concludes. The last-place Ducks (15-28-7, 37 points) finish their full schedule with two games at St. Louis next week and two at Minnesota next weekend.
Perhaps Miller can leave now, after 18 seasons and four in Anaheim, knowing the Ducks are on their way to respectability again. Anthony Stolarz has emerged as a capable backup to starting goaltender John Gibson, and new promising faces are on the scene.
Trevor Zegras returned Wednesday from a short stint in the AHL designed to help his transition from wing to his future position of center. The 20-year-old and ninth overall selection in the 2019 draft, had just shy of 15 minutes of ice time Wednesday and he too got a glimpse into the past.
The Ducks defeated the Kings 3-2 on Wednesday when veteran Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler scored the game-winning goal with 1:01 remaining after a brilliant weave into the slot where he fired his shot.
“Just trying to create something offensively, just trying to use my skill set, just trying to get something to the net,” Fowler said afterward on the Bally Sports broadcast.
The Kings (18-23-6, 42 points) put their future on display as well Wednesday when 18-year-old Quinton Byfield, the No. 2 overall selection in the 2020 draft, made his NHL debut in the defeat. Byfield won eight of his 12 faceoffs in nearly 18 minutes of ice time.
“I knew I had a lot of support behind me tonight and I just wanted to go into the game with confidence,” Byfield said. “You try to step up your game and bury all your chances.”
The Kings are not officially eliminated from playoff contention, like the Ducks are, but that day is getting close. In seventh place, Los Angeles is eight points behind the fourth-place St. Louis Blues with nine games remaining, but the Kings would have to jump three teams in just over two weeks to become playoff eligible.
Essentially, bragging rights in Southern California are about the biggest prize remaining for the teams. Los Angeles is 3-2-1 in the season series while Anaheim is 3-3-0.
–Field Level Media
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