The Anaheim Ducks have struggled to live up to their lofty expectations this season. Considered by many NHL pundits to be a legitimate playoff contender, the Ducks (15 points) entered this week the worst team in the Western Conference, trailing Minnesota (16 points) and St. Louis (16 points). In fact, only Toronto (11 points) and Carolina (10 points) have worst records than Anaheim this season.

Yet, the Ducks are still optimistic – and not because it is only November and five months of hockey remain to be played. While the optimism has not translated well on the ice with three consecutive road losses to New Jersey (28 points), Columbus (22 points) and Detroit (23 points), the Ducks did receive a shot in the arm when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman lifted his one-year ban on team owner Henry Samueli.

OK, Samueli does not actually play on the ice, and it may be coincidence that the Ducks have struggled to win ever since Bettman suspended him for pleading guilty to a felony count of lying to the Securities and Exchange Commission. However, the last time Samueli was in the owner’s box, the Ducks were celebrating a Stanley Cup victory.

Perhaps the team will climb out of the Western Conference cellar when they return to home ice against Tampa Bay (20 points) on Thursday and see Samueli reclaim his normal seat. The Ducks also host the Sharks (32 points) Saturday and Flames (26 points) Monday.

The other Southern California hockey club is still trying to find an identity. Trailing San Jose by six points for the division lead, the Kings (26 points) followed up two wins with three losses in their last five games, including a 7-0 loss to Atlanta (21 points) on Friday.

Anze Kopitar still leads the league with 31 points and 14 goals, while Jonathan Quick is fourth among goaltenders with 11 wins so far this season. While the Kings are a hungry team, they will continue to have their peaks and valleys all season.

The Kings host the Flyers (21 points) Wednesday night and the Flames Saturday afternoon.

All stats as of Nov. 16.