AUDIO: Includes audio interviews with Los Angeles Kings’ Dwight King, Trevor Lewis, Alec Martinez and head coach Darryl Sutter.
EL SEGUNDO, CA — As the Los Angeles Kings begin their annual Grammy road trip tonight at Boston (4:00 PM PST) while Staples Center hosts the annual Grammy Awards, their big home win over the Chicago Blackhawks on January 29 could serve a stepping stone, of sorts.
“I think we stuck with it for 60 minutes,” defenseman Alec Martinez said about the win over Chicago. “I thought our penalty-kill was a lot better. We had three of those kills in the first [period], and we had a big goal on the power play, so special teams was a big difference. That’s what it’s going to take to win games.”
“I thought we did better, as a defensive corps, [too],” added Martinez. “I thought all six of us played well, but I think we played a better team game for a full sixty.”
Forward Trevor Lewis noted that the Kings were an improved team in their own zone against the Blackhawks, resulting in the Kings being able to break out of their own zone cleanly, which their offensive attack is built on.
“I think we were cleaner out of our zone, and getting behind their defensemen was big,” Lewis explained. “They’re a team that likes to get in, and get behind our defensemen. They did that a few times, but for the most part, we tried to get them in and out, get behind their defensemen, and play in their zone.”
Even more critical to their success against the Blackhawks was that the Kings were in playoff mode.
“Our focus and our intensity was a little higher than it has been,” left wing Dwight King observed. “When we play like that we can win big games, like we did.”
“Guys on the bench were talking to each other [more], helping [each other] out,” said Lewis. “Guys were getting in there, hitting a lot. You saw [left wing Kyle Clifford] get a big hit there, and the bench [went] nuts. You could just feel the energy and the emotion on the bench.”
“I don’t know if [the mood] was different, but you could kind of tell that we were in a playoff mindset,” added Lewis. “We were passionate, and I think we have been all year, in spurts. But last night, I felt that there was more emotion on the bench the whole game.”
With a tough, five-game road swing staring them right in their faces, that playoff mindset is absolutely critical.
“Right now, we’re already in the playoffs just to make the playoffs,” Lewis emphasized. “We have to make sure to come in with that compete [level] and that emotion—all those things—every night now.”
Being in playoff mode well before the post-season has begun is nothing new for the Kings.
“Ever since I’ve been here, the West has always been pretty tight,” said Martinez. “You’ve got to be playing playoff hockey far before the playoffs start. I think we can tap into that experience having gone through it before.”
“Seems like every time our backs are against the wall this team shows its true colors,” said Lewis. “Right now, our backs are against the wall. We need to win games to make the playoffs. Last night was a step in the right direction, but we know can be even better than that. We need to keep going.”
That they will have to be better down the road is a given. Nevertheless, there were some good things to take from their win over Chicago.
“You try to take the things you did well against a really good hockey club like that—we’ve got a tough road trip coming up,” Martinez noted. “A lot of Eastern teams, a lot of the top teams in that conference. Just like anything [else], you take the good and try to generate more off of that, build momentum off of that, and sharpen up the things we need to sharpen up on.”
“That’s the thing about sports,” said King. “Every day, you have to find a way to re-generate something that you’ve used in the past. For our group, we can lean on a little bit of experience, and just pushing each other, as a unit, to bring our best. We’re going to need it, to make a push for the playoffs.”
But unlike their late-season run in 2012 that got them into the eighth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference by the skins of their teeth, this time around, the stretch drive ahead of them is likely to be an even greater challenge.
“In 2012, maybe we weren’t known as such a great team,” Lewis observed. “This year, everyone knows, and everyone’s prepared for us. We’ve got to know that, come prepared, and play a full 60 [minutes].”
“It’s crunch time. We’ve got to get on a roll.”
Raw Audio Interviews
(Extraneous material and dead air have been removed; click on the arrow to listen):
Dwight King (1:13)
Trevor Lewis (3:22)
Alec Martinez (2:08)
Darryl Sutter (8:39)
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