(SportsNetwork.com) - The final piece of the NHL conference final round will fall into place Friday when the Los Angeles Kings visit the Anaheim Ducks for a decisive Game 7 clash from the Honda Center.
The Eastern Conference finals are set with Montreal scheduled to host the New York Rangers in Game 1 on Saturday, but the Chicago Blackhawks are still waiting for an opponent in the West. The winner of Friday's game in Anaheim will face the defending Stanley Cup champions in the conference finals, with either the Ducks hosting the Blackhawks in Game 1 on Sunday or Los Angeles visiting Chicago on the same day.
The Kings forced tonight's Game 7 thanks to a 2-1 home victory on Wednesday. The close decision halted Anaheim's three-game winning streak after losing the first two contests of this series on home ice.
Anaheim is 2-3 all-time in Game 7s while the Kings are 5-4 in this situation.
Despite dropping Games 1 and 2 in Orange County, the top-seeded Ducks are 4-2 as the host in this postseason. L.A. is 4-3 on the road, but had won four straight as the guest before dropping Game 5 in Anaheim by a 4-3 score.
In order to get past the Kings, however, Anaheim will have to end Los Angeles' string of elimination wins during this postseason. The Kings won four in a row to beat San Jose in the opening round after dropping the first three games of that set, becoming the fourth club in NHL history to win a series after falling behind 3-0. L.A. pushed that streak to five with Wednesday's win at the Staples Center.
Jake Muzzin and Trevor Lewis each lit the lamp in Game 6 and Jonathan Quick stopped 21 shots to help the Kings stay alive. L.A., which won its first Stanley Cup title in 2012, is attempting to make it to the conference final stage for a third straight spring.
Anze Kopitar posted an assist for the Kings, giving him at least one point in 12 of his team's 13 playoff games. Kopitar is leading the league with 17 points on four goals and 13 assists this postseason.
Muzzin opened the scoring with his third of the playoffs 8:16 into the game, while Lewis netted the eventual game-winner with 5:56 left in the second. Kyle Palmieri found the back of the net just 1:38 later to get the Ducks within one, but Quick turned aside all 10 shots he faced in the third to set the stage for this evening's winner-take-all contest.
L.A. improved to 6-1 this postseason when scoring first.
"We're a good team. Any team that's still playing this time of year has got a good team and knows how to win," Quick said. "It'll be a good game (Game 7) and we've got to get our rest and be ready."
Anaheim rookie John Gibson, who had stopped 67-of-70 shots since making his postseason debut between the pipes in Game 4, allowed both goals on 23 shots in the setback.
"You want to win it when you can, and we didn't get it done," Anaheim head coach Bruce Boudreau said. "We'll get better and we'll get ready, and we'll play a hell of a game Friday."
The 20-year-old Gibson burst on the scene with a 28-save shutout in Game 4 and stopped 39-of-42 shots in Monday's close victory. It was the first loss at the NHL level for Gibson, who was 3-0 for Anaheim during the regular season in 2013-14 before winning Games 4 and 5 of this series.
The Ducks are aiming for their first trip to the conference finals since 2007, when the franchise won its only Stanley Cup title.
This series, which has been dubbed the "Freeway Faceoff," is the first playoff matchup between these Southern California rivals.
Friday's game could be the last in the standout career of Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, who expects to retire after this season. The 43-year-old future Hall of Famer has compiled 684 regular-season goals and 1,457 points in over two decades in the league.