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Clarke, Vilardi, Regenda Get Noticed in the Kings-Ducks Pre-Season Mini-Series

Prospects, new acquisitions and familiar faces are making the most of the three-game series between the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks. Who stands out the most?
Pavol Regenda

The Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks are completing their pre-season tune-ups with a three-game mini-series against each other this week.

Two games are in the books so far, with the home side prevailing both times. 

Last Sunday, the Kings went 2-for-4 with the man advantage while the Ducks were 0-for-4. Arthur Kaliyev's power-play tally, scored late in the first period, held up as the game-winner in a 2-1 victory at Crypto.com Arena.

On Tuesday in Anaheim, fans were treated to an entertaining goal-fest, with the home team prevailing by a 5-4 score. A power-play goal from free-agent acquisition Frank Vatrano, scored 51 seconds into the third period, stood up as the game-winner.

After the Kings take a quick detour to play the Vegas Golden Knights in Salt Lake City on Thursday, the pre-season Freeway Faceoff series will wrap up back in Los Angeles on Saturday at 4 p.m. ET.

Here's a look at what we've learned about these SoCal squads so far.

Los Angeles Kings

Now 36, Jonathan Quick is headed into the last season of the 10-year contract extension he signed after winning the Conn Smythe Trophy and his first Stanley Cup in 2012.

Last year, he helped the Kings get back to the playoffs with a 23-13-9 record in 46 starts. This fall, he looks like he's ready to pick up where he left off.

In 93:11 of action, Quick has given up just two goals on 43 shots for a 1.29 goals-against average and .953 save percentage. He went the distance against the Ducks on Sunday and was named the game's second star after giving up just one goal on 25 shots.

After being decimated by injuries on the blueline last season, the Kings' back end looks deep in camp. Drew Doughty and Sean Walker are back in action. Youngsters Sean Durzi, Mikey Anderson and Tobias Bjornfot are looking to take another step after being thrust into larger-than-expected roles last season. And 2021 eighth-overall pick Brandt Clarke has gotten a long look — the only Los Angeles player to have suited up for all five of their games to date.

Up front, 2017's 11th-overall pick Gabe Vilardi helped his cause with a two-goal night in Anaheim on Tuesday. Now 23, the big forward's development has been slowed by injuries which have limited him to just 89 NHL games so far. Vilardi would have to pass through waivers to be assigned to the AHL this season. It's make-or-break time for the Memorial Cup all-star from the 2017 Windsor Spitfires.

After getting a nice boost from last season's acquisitions of Phillip Danault and Viktor Arvidsson, the Kings hope Kevin Fiala will deliver the same magic this season. Coming off a 33-goal campaign with the Minnesota Wild and armed with a new $55-million contract, Fiala has a goal and an assist in three pre-season games so far — and his impact is being seen beyond the score sheet.

Anaheim Ducks

Since Pat Verbeek took charge as the Ducks' new GM last February, he's engineered a major roster overhaul, which makes Anaheim one of the more intriguing squads to watch this season.

You can count the franchise stalwarts on one hand: John Gibson, Cam Fowler, Adam Henrique and Jakob Silfverberg.

Then, you've got the young studs Troy Terry, Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, who broke out in a big way last season.

Verbeek was aggressive in free agency this summer. His key additions were Vatrano and Ryan Strome up front and John Klingberg on the back end. 

Will Mason McTavish make the opening-night roster? At 19, it's either the NHL or back to junior for this summer's World Junior Championship MVP, who doesn't have anything left to prove at the OHL level. 

And here's a name to watch — Pavol Regenda. A 22-year-old winger from Slovakia, Regenda was signed to a two-way contract in June and has lit it up so far in his North American debut. After a three-point night on Tuesday, the Olympic bronze medalist from Beijing now leads the Ducks with six points in five pre-season games. And at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds, he cuts an imposing figure on the ice.

Regenda wouldn't require waivers to be assigned to the AHL's San Diego Gulls. But another strong performance in the pre-season finale could go a long way toward earning him an opening-night NHL roster spot.

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