Willie Mitchell knows something about what it takes to make the playoffs. He’s done it five times in the past eight seasons, with four three different teams (Minnesota, Dallas, Vancouver and the Kings), so Mitchell has seen the full spectrum. This has been a hard-to-figure season for the Kings, who are actually ahead of last season’s 50-game pace but give off the distinct scent of underachievement. They are only two points behind Pacific Division leader San Jose, but the Sharks (who host Columbus tonight) have three games in hand over the Kings. I asked Mitchell about his feeling about the Kings going into the final 32 games, and the idea that there might be room for improvement. Mitchell said he has not let San Jose out of his sights just yet.

MITCHELL: “It’s a different year. There are different challenges and different things for the team. I think the team has really enjoyed playing for Darryl (Sutter), really enjoyed his passion. You can see that in our game. It’s a much more passionate game out there, for the team as a whole. We still — at least I do, and I can’t speak for everyone else — but I have my sights set on San Jose. That should be our yardstick, is trying to catch them. Look ahead, and try to catch them. You never know, right? We had a little slump during the year. They could have a little hiccup. Teams usually do, during the course of the season. That should be our big-picture focus. Then in the short term, on game days, it’s doing what we need to do to focus on the next team we’re playing. If we do that, the next thing you know, you’re where you want to be. That’s where we’re going to be putting all our energies during the haul here, because we’ve got a lot of games on the road as well.’’

Question: Is it accurate to say that the games feel a little more important at this time of the season?

MITCHELL: “For sure. I find, from having done this a few times, it just seems like time flies by really quickly. The games end up being — not that they aren’t all important, because game 1 is as important as game 82 — but it just seems to get magnified at this time of year, just because everyone is so close in the standings and fighting for a playoff spot. It’s going to be a big, hard pull for us. Much like anyone else, you just try to stay in it and jockey for position. We feel good, that we’re playing pretty well. We have another gear yet, I think, as a group, but we’re excited just to go forward and prepare for the next one here.’’

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Alec martinez

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 210 lb | Age: 29

Born: July 26, 1987
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, MI, USA
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Martinez was drafted by the LA Kings in the 2007 Draft, while playing for Miami University. He has since become a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the 17th man in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

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Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

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Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

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Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
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Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

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Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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