Kings, Ducks Thank Fans, Support NHL's 24-Team Playoff Field

LOS ANGELES (CNS) - The Los Angeles Kings and the Anaheim Ducks are expressing support for the National Hockey League's Return to Play Plan, even though it means the end of the 2019-20 season for both Southland teams.

The Kings and Ducks were two of seven teams that failed to make the cut for the NHL's special 24-team Stanley Cup Playoffs tournament announced Tuesday.

“It's unfortunate that our season has concluded but we fully understand this was necessary and support the decision,'' said Luc Robitaille, president of the Kings. “At the time of the pause, we had made considerable progress in the second half and were seeing positive results and encouraging signs for the future. We'll now turn our attention to the NHL Draft and player development so that we can continue building our organization for long term success. We thank our fans for their unwavering support and already look forward to the 2020-21 season.''

The Ducks also supported the decision.

“While we would have preferred to conclude our season normally and play 82 games, it became obvious over time that was not practical,'' Ducks Executive VP/GM Bob Murray said. “We appreciate the NHL and NHLPA working together to award the Stanley Cup in these unique circumstances. We also want to thank our fans for their support and patience. We remain excited about our future and can't wait for the 2020-21 season.''

Under the plan announced by NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, the 12 qualifying teams from the Eastern and Western conferences were determined by points percentage as of March 12, when play was suspended amid the coronavirus outbreak.

The Kings and Ducks were both mired near the bottom of the Pacific Division, with just 64 and 67 point, respectively.

Other teams missing the playoffs are the Buffalo Sabres, New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings. The seven non-playoff teams will participate in the NHL Draft Lottery, which will hold its first phase June 26.

“I want to make clear that the health and safety of our players, coaches, essential support staff and our communities are paramount,'' Bettman said. “While nothing is without risk, ensuring health and safety has been central to all of our planning so far and will remain so.

“Let me assure you that the reason we are doing this is because our fans have told us in overwhelming numbers that they want to complete the season if at all possible. And our players and our teams are clear that they want to play and bring the season to its rightful conclusion.''

The qualifying round and round-robin will be held at two hub cities to be identified -- one for the Eastern Conference teams and one for the Western Conference teams. Los Angeles was listed as a candidate, along with Dallas, Edmonton, Las Vegas, Chicago, Columbus, Minneapolis/St. Paul, Pittsburgh, Toronto and Vancouver.

“We are honored to be included in consideration as an NHL hub city,'' said Kelly Cheeseman, Kings' chief operating officer. “We know LA Live and Staples Center will be well prepared given our collective history of hosting showcase events, so we look forward to the outcome.''

No date was given for when the tournament will begin.

“Obviously, we anticipate playing over the summer and into the early fall,'' Bettman said. “At this time, we are not fixing dates because the schedule of our return to play will be determined both by developing circumstances and the needs of the players.''

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