An interesting stretch of hockey continues for the Los Angeles Kings, who may not face the same frequency of playoff-destined teams that the schedule threw at them in January, but will still be facing a heavy assortment of bubble teams whose seasons will be on the line when they face off against L.A. as the regular season’s final stretch approaches.
The last two games pitted the Kings against teams with plenty to play for. Los Angeles suffered back-to-back losses against Toronto, a team fighting both for home ice advantage and to simply participate in the postseason, and Anaheim, a team in a neck-and-neck battle with San Jose for the Pacific Division.
Visiting tonight will be Phoenix; the Coyotes are tied with Dallas for the West’s last wild card, though the Stars have a game in hand. Washington, a team two points out of the final wild card in the Eastern Conference, visits Thursday. After a home game against Florida – a non-playoff team – on Saturday, the Kings will venture to the east coast for the final time in the regular season to face Philadelphia, a team battling for home ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs while trying to fend off Columbus and the New York Rangers, who currently sit one point behind. Los Angeles also travels to Washington and first place Pittsburgh on the upcoming trip before returning home to face three more bubble teams in Winnipeg, Minnesota (more firmly in the playoffs than on the cusp) and Phoenix once again. The Kings are 17-10-1 against teams currently remaining on their schedule.
This stretch of games against teams battling for their playoff lives should be good preparation for a team looking to build up its own game, even if it appears to be slotted fairly comfortably in the Pacific Division’s third seed, right?
“It’s good for us because we should be just as desperate as them,” center Mike Richards said. “It’s the time of the season when you play desperate teams not only just to get into the playoffs, but teams that are looking for position too. So, it’s a fun time to play hockey. It’s exciting. It’s really intense just because of what we just talked about, but we have play as desperate as other teams if we’re going to have success.”
Richards, on the team averaging 38.6 shots on goal per game over the last five games:
It’s good to get shots. It means that you have the puck. It’s just that we have to find the second pucks in the slot and try to get more quality chances, I guess. And when we do have the chances, bear down. We’re missing right now where the goalie is making a save and keep at it and hopefully it will go in.
Richards, on whether this morning’s earthquake was the first he ever felt:
It was. 6:30, yeah, I went right back to sleep. It wasn’t too startling.