Ryan Getzlaf and the Anaheim Ducks face the Los Angeles Kings in the first round of the NHL playoffs. Photo by Mark Goldman/UPI | License Photo
Sports rivalries between California teams are always intense. When it comes to hockey there isn't much of a history, but that's about to change.
North meets South when the San Jose Sharks visit the Anaheim Ducks in Game 1 of a first-round Western Conference matchup on Thursday night at Honda Center
This is the 14th playoff series between California teams and only the second between San Jose and Anaheim. It will be nearly impossible to top the first series.
In 2009, the Sharks entered the postseason as Presidents' Trophy winners and with franchise records of 53 wins and 117 points. The eighth-seeded Ducks pulled off the upset in six games.
This season, Anaheim (44-25-13) finished on a 10-1-1 run to ease past San Jose and the Los Angeles Kings into second place in the Pacific Division.
"If we didn't have success, we might not even be qualified for the playoffs," Ducks coach Randy Carlyle told the team's official website.
San Jose (45-27-10) reached 100 points for the first time in coach Peter DeBoer's three seasons but enters the playoffs on a 1-4-1 slump after a season-high eight-game winning streak.
"We're drawing probably one of the top teams in the league, and it's a great test for us," DeBoer said Monday.
The Sharks went 3-0-1 versus the Ducks in the regular season, with three games going to a shootout. DeBoer is not expecting an easy series.
"They had 101 points, and that was without (Ryan) Getzlaf and (Ryan) Kesler (hip injury) for big parts of the season, so they're probably a 110-point team at the end of the day," he said.
Carlyle, who led Anaheim to its only Stanley Cup title in 2007, gave his insight on the Sharks.
"They're a skating, well-coached hockey club," he told the Orange County Register. "Lots of balance. They're not a flashy team by any means but they've got a lot of depth through their lineup. They play a high-tempo game."
San Jose's offense is powered by Norris Trophy winner Brent Burns, who overcame a slow start -- seven assists in his first 19 games -- to lead the team with 67 points. Wings Joe Pavelski (66 points) and Logan Couture (team-high 34 goals, 61 points) also figured prominently.
Sharks winger Evander Kane, the fourth overall pick in the 2009 draft by the Atlanta Thrashers, will make his postseason debut. Kane had nine goals and five assists in 17 games after being acquired in February from the Buffalo Sabres.
"In the short period he's been here, he's brought speed, which backs teams off. He's brought a physical presence, which keeps people honest," DeBoer said Monday.
For the second straight season, winger Rickard Rakell was Anaheim's top goal scorer, this time with a career-high 34.
Getzlaf appeared in only 56 games -- he missed 19 between late October and mid-December after facial surgery -- and tied a career low with 11 goals, but also put up 50 assists. He has 118 points (37 goals, 81 assists) in 121 career playoff games.
Anaheim also got 20 goals this season from winger Ondrej Kase -- a seventh-round draft pick in 2014 -- and 20 from center Adam Henrique after he was picked up in a late November trade from the New Jersey Devils.
Both teams have solid options in goal, but the Ducks may have the better tandem.
Anaheim's John Gibson set a career best with 31 wins and posted a 2.43 goals-against average in 60 games, while Ryan Miller went 12-6-6 with a 2.35 GAA and owns 28 career playoff wins.
San Jose's Martin Jones reached 30 wins for the third time in as many seasons with the club despite a career-worst 2.55 GAA. Aaron Dell, who won 15 games in his second season, has never played a minute in the postseason.
Both teams will miss key players. For the Ducks, defenseman Cam Fowler (eight goals, 24 assists) is expected to sit out the first round with a shoulder injury.
"The one thing they have is depth," DeBoer said of Anaheim's defensemen. "If (Fowler's) in, he's a great player. If he isn't, they have a lot of great players."
The bulk of the Ducks' blue-line scoring comes from Josh Manson (career-high 37 points), Brandon Montour (career-high 32 points) and Hampus Lindholm (31 points).
San Jose will still be without Joe Thornton. The 20-year-veteran center has not played since suffering a right knee injury in late January. Nine months earlier, Thornton needed surgery to repair the MCL and ACL in his left knee.
"Not for Game 1, and that's as far as we'll go," DeBoer said Tuesday.
Game 2 is scheduled for Saturday at Honda Center.