Adding fuel to California rivalry


ANAHEIM, Calif. -- As far as practices go, especially at this time of year, the Anaheim Ducks held a pretty spirited one Thursday, seemingly by design given what awaits them in Round 2.

"Well, I think it's going to be physical so we were just getting them ready," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said after practice. "I think you need something like that before getting into what I think is going to be a pretty emotional series. Plus it looked like they were tired of practicing, they just want to get at somebody rather than being friends."

Oh, they'll get their chance to get at their foes, in the name of the Los Angeles Kings, as they prepare for a first-ever Southern California playoff series that has been a long time coming.

"The crowd is going to be into it, the players are excited, and I think California is excited,'' said Ducks star winger Corey Perry.

Here's the thing, California has had a mighty intense rivalry already over the past few years, the Sharks and Kings facing off in three of the past four postseasons and providing some pretty special moments.

The Ducks were the third wheel in the equation the last few years, watching from afar as their two California cousins beat each other up and created memorable moments.

You better believe the Ducks want in on that action. And now they finally get it.

"You just watch that series [that] they just went through," Perry said of the Kings and Sharks. "Those first couple of games there were 120 hits, 100 hits. We know it's going to be a physical series. We know L.A. is going to come out and be banging, be physical and play their style of game. We just have to be ready to respond to that."

Added Ducks winger Matt Beleskey: "All that good stuff you saw in those Sharks-Kings series, it'll be the same with us. We're looking forward to it."

The Ducks-Kings rivalry was manufactured into one before it ever really became one. Oh sure, there have been some very good regular-season games over the years and the outdoor game at Dodger Stadium this year, but at the end of the day, as excited as the Ducks say they are to get in on this California playoff fun, the reality is that you don't feel like there's any genuine hate yet between these two teams.

It might only take one shift in Game 1 Saturday night, but it's not there yet.

"It's one of those things where the fans and the media build the rivalry to be more than the players in the locker room (feel)," Hart Trophy finalist Ryan Getzlaf said Thursday. "For us, they're another team that we have to go through to get to our goal. And it's going to be a tough series, we know they're a good hockey team."

What's so fascinating is that two weeks ago on the eve of the Sharks-Kings series, players on those teams were saying the exact opposite. One Sharks player in fact said that the media and fans didn't need to dress up the rivalry at all, because both teams had a genuine hate going. The rivalry was real where it mattered most: on the ice.

And that's because of having played in the playoffs the last few years. That's where a true rivalry is born. That's when the true hate grows.

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