April 2, 2012 9:04 am

Sutter focused on top eight, not top three

It’s a three-game sprint to the finish in the Pacific Division. The Kings and Phoenix have 91 points, San Jose has 90 and Dallas has 89. Any one of the three teams could win the division, and one of the four is certain to miss the playoffs. Perhaps one of you hockey historians might have the answer, but has there ever been a scenario in which, with six days remaining in the regular season, four teams have a legitimate chance of winning a division? Last season, the Kings finished fourth in the division and were seven points behind first-place San Jose. In the post-lockout era, that’s about as close as it gets. Darryl Sutter paused when asked if he had ever seen a division race this tight, then said, “I can’t remember that.’’

The question is, if you make the playoffs, does it matter? A division title sounds nice, and it does bring home-ice advantage, but Sutter knows that’s not everything. When he coached Calgary to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2004, the Flames were the No. 6 seed and knocked off No. 3 Vancouver, No. 1 Detroit and No. 2 San Jose. That’s certainly not the easier road, but if it’s the only road available, Sutter will take it.

SUTTER: “It matters more to make the playoffs. We’ve got to beat Edmonton (tonight), or you’re not asking the same question on Tuesday, right? You know what my focus is, so really you’re getting ahead of that. I haven’t even really began to wonder about that. To make it, right now, has to be the primary focus, because that’s a tough task. When you’re asking about the division title, really, it’s five teams for three spots (in the Western Conference), depending on how you want to look at it. That’s pretty tough, when they’re all that close. We have to beat Edmonton. That takes it from five teams to four teams, if you look at it. Because one team [Colorado] can’t catch us if we win (tonight). That’s how you look at it. It’s not who is ahead of you, it’s who is behind you and what they have left. If you look at the teams’ records in the last six or seven weeks, in our last 20 games we’ve lost four games maybe. What more can you ask? Not much. That’s why you’ve got to stay focused on one game.’’

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