EL SEGUNDO, CA — Returning home after a salvaging a four-game road trip through Nashville, Columbus, Detroit and Chicago, the Los Angeles Kings have no time to look back with just 13 games remaining on their schedule.
Through games played on March 12, the Kings find themselves in 11th place, two points behind eighth-place Colorado for the final playoff berth in the Western Conference. The Kings are also three points behind seventh-place Phoenix, and five points behind the Pacific Division-leading Dallas Stars.
If not for a poor effort at Columbus on March 8, and some atrocious defensive zone play late in their game at Detroit the following night, the Kings could easily be in seventh place in the conference.
Indeed, a mediocre 2-2-0 road trip was not what the doctor ordered.
“We started off well in Nashville, but we didn’t play very well at all in Columbus,” said left wing Dwight King, who recorded a key assist in a 3-2 shootout win at Chicago on March 11. “In Detroit, we had a better effort, just not the result. But we came up with two points in Chicago, which is good.”
“It was a decent road trip,” said center Anze Kopitar. “The effort in Columbus was not where we wanted it to be, but we played well in Detroit, and we took the positives out [of that loss]. [Head coach] Darryl [Sutter] came in and said if we play like that, most likely, we’re going to win games.”
“It was one of those games you play, and, pretty much, everything happens the way you want it to,” added Kopitar. “There’s times when [you’re] going to be running around and chasing, whatever the case may be. But you know what? Every team has good players who are going to make good plays. That’s what you have to realize, and not panic [during] those two or three minutes that are going a little bit south on you.”
“If you panic, those two or three minutes can turn into six or seven, and that’s what you don’t want. I think we were in control for pretty much the whole game [at Chicago], and even in Detroit, we were in control. The finish? What happened, happened. But if we’re going to play games like that [without the mistakes at the end], I like our chances.”
The end of the game in Detroit was ugly, to say the least.
“The last five minutes wasn’t our greatest five minutes,” King noted. “It’s little things, like how to stay focused. Everyone here knows how to defend really well, and they’ve shown it for most of the season. It’s about awareness, and bearing down [late in] the game.”
For center Mike Richards, the game at Detroit was a nightmare, one in which his poor defensive play directly resulted in two goals against, including the game-winner.
To his credit, Richards owned up to his poor play immediately after the game. He did so again following off-ice workouts at the Kings’ practice facility in El Segundo, California, on March 12, but pointed out that what the team does going forward is the focus.
“It’s about being a professional,” said Richards. “You’re not going to play well every night. It was disappointing, the way we lost in Detroit, personally, and team-wise. But it’s the way you bounce back, which is not an easy thing to do after a tough loss during a playoff run.”
Speaking of bouncing back, Richards did just that as one of the Kings’ best players during their win at Chicago.
“It would be easy to be discouraged, but the way we fought back and played in Chicago, and gutted it out after a long road trip—we played well, and got the most important thing: two points,” Richards noted. “We did a good job finishing checks, and [creating turnovers], really playing the game how we wanted it, not allow them to get into a tennis match, back-and-forth, trading opportunities with them.”
“We did a lot of good things,” Richards added. “We went out there and played with what we could control, we did what we can do to win hockey games.”
Kopitar was even more pointed about forgetting about what happened in the past.
“It’s the time of year, and in the position we’re in now, you can’t look back at what happened,” he stressed. “You can only look ahead. I know it sounds like that every time, but you have to put it behind you. If it was a 7-1 loss, or a 3-2 loss. It doesn’t really matter. You have to put it behind you, and play the games that are coming up.”
“You throw the DVD away, and you forget about it. There’s just no time for thinking about it. You’ve got to look ahead. Obviously, it’s not the time [you want breakdowns] to happen. But it did. You can’t mope about it. You just have to go out, and play again.”
Tickets for the Kings’ upcoming home games against the Detroit Red Wings (March 13, 7:30 PM – Red Wings vs. Kings), the Nashville Predators (March 17, 7:30 PM – Predators vs. Kings), as well as for other games on their schedule, are available from Barry’s Tickets, an official partner of the Los Angeles Kings. Use the code, “Royalty010” to get a 10 percent discount on their “Best Value” tickets.
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