SoCal fans getting treated to Game 7

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ANAHEIM, Calif. -- It caught the attention of Ryan Getzlaf and brought a smirk to his face.

"I saw the other night a couple walking on the street. And one had a Ducks jersey and one had a Kings jersey," Getzlaf said with a chuckle Thursday. "It's fun. Those are great things for us [to see]."

The Anaheim Ducks captain will once again see plenty of both teams' sweaters in the stands at Honda Center on Friday night as the NHL's first series between Southern California teams concludes the way it was destined to before the puck dropped two weeks ago: with a seventh and final game between two Cup contenders just so evenly matched.

A series that hasn't disappointed will end in the rink where it should, the atmosphere at Honda Center has been more memorable for the way in which Kings fans have invaded the enemy building, creating a soccer-like ambiance, the "Let's Go Ducks" chant responded in concert by "Let's Go Kings."

We were told before the series that Ducks fans don't like to go to L.A., and that's been proven right -- the fans in orange colors were in much smaller numbers at Staples Center compared to the Kings caravan at Ducks games, where at least a third of the crowd has been dressed in silver and black.

Kings superstar Drew Doughty just before puck drop in Game 1, while standing for the anthem, tilted his head up and down, stunned at just how many Kings fans were in the Honda Center stands.

"That was the loudest that I've ever heard it at game time," said Doughty after that Game 1 overtime win. "Actually, the Kings fans were great, you could hear them chanting, 'Go Kings, go.' In a visiting team's barn, I'm sure the other team doesn't like to hear that too much. We'll take it. It was great for California."

This whole fortnight of hockey has been sensational for these parts. The Ducks and Kings have taken out billboards in plain sight on freeways. There are Kings and Ducks flags on cars.

Nobody's pretending hockey has topped the crowded local sports scene, let's be serious. But there's been a noticeable bump in awareness.

"I think the attention that's been given to it is going to be great for the youth that want to play," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said Thursday. "For the first time in 2½ years, if I walk outside other than the arena, people are opening their window and saying, `Go get 'em coach.'"

Ah yes, there's still a game to play. And for Boudreau, it's a game he so badly wants to win.

"I am due," the Ducks coach said Friday, referring to his career 1-4 record in seventh games.

As the Capitals coach, his team beat the Rangers in a Game 7 but lost to Montreal, Philadelphia and Pittsburgh. And of course, there's last year here at Honda Center, where his Ducks lost to the visiting Red Wings.

With that painful experience, however, has come knowledge.

"You learn more every year you're in this league, every time you're in that situation; my Game 7 record wouldn't indicate that I've learned anything," Boudreau said with a smile, "but I tend to believe that I have and take different approaches. A couple of things that were done last year, I've already addressed that hopefully won't happen this year. You learn by experience."

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