It can get a bit over-dramatic to start talking about “big games’’ with more than six weeks remaining in the regular season, but there’s the possibility of a big swing for the Kings tonight. The ninth-place Kings face the seventh-place Coyotes, and if the Kings lose, they risk falling deeper into a hole. That’s because division leader San Jose and eighth-place Calgary both have very winnable games. The Sharks play at Columbus and the Flames host Edmonton. Not to mention that, with a regulation loss, the Kings would fall four points behind the seventh-place Coyotes. Darryl Sutter was asked if he would use the word “urgency’’ in terms of the Kings’ situation right now, with 23 games remaining.
SUTTER: “It’s not much different than really when I came here. You’re still in the very same position. From seven to 11 (in the Western Conference), there’s no difference, right, other than how your top players play. So, I don’t know what the word is, but those guys, you’re trying to give them every opportunity to take their game to where they have to take it, in terms of ice time and situations, things like that. Then they have to do that. It’s no different. You look at a team like Anaheim, that’s hot right now, and quite honestly I think we’re playing fine. I look at our last four games. We get beat in overtime on the island. We go into Dallas and win, and then we come home and lose two 1-0 games. I don’t believe it’s scoring. I believe it’s scoring big goals. If we had won both of those games 1-0, we’d be standing here going, `Whoa, we just got seven of the last eight points.’ I think we’re playing fine now. I look at it more as individual, top guys playing better.’’
To be certain, someone needs to do something. The Coyotes are playing well, their goalie is red-hot and they’ve been thriving in low-scoring games, while the Kings haven’t. The teams are four days removed from the Coyotes’ 1-0 victory at Staples Center.
SUTTER: “They scored a power-play goal. We talked about what they do on power plays a lot, and how important it is. We know they’re going to screen and have big guys around the net. We know what they’re going to do up top. It’s how you manage it and take it away. That’s the big thing. Then, what do you do different? You score a big goal. They did and we didn’t. Same with Calgary, they did and we didn’t. And look at who scores them. Top players. That’s what it’s about. Our team is not like a lot of those teams. Everybody was on Anaheim about not playing well. Those guys know how. Those young guys there, they were a big part of why they played a lot of playoff games. Those guys are the most important part of why they played a lot of playoff games. You look at Calgary, who we played last game. Their top players are veteran, experienced guys. These guys here are still not on either one of those pages yet. That’s why you’ve got to be careful how you work with it, but at the same time, make sure they understand the importance of what they can bring.’’