April 24 pregame notebook
FOUR THE MONEY
The environment in the Kings’ locker room in advance of Game 4 didn’t appear to be vastly different than that which accompanied Game 3. Trailing three games to none instead of two to none, the objective was the same: Win the next game.
“We’re feeling good,” Drew Doughty said. “We fully believe we can come back, but it’s just one game at a time right now. It’s a big game at home. I thought we deserved a little better last game, but we didn’t get it. Eventually the bounces are going to start turning our way, but we’ve got to work for them.
Doughty, who logged over 28 and a half minutes in Game 3 despite leaving the ice midway through the first period due to an unspecified injury that required maintenance, characterized his own performance and projected confidence in what lies ahead.
“I thought I played pretty good last game. I think I can be a little more dominant than I have been so far,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do things. Slowly it’s coming back to me. Tonight, expect the best out of me.”
Los Angeles hasn’t kept San Jose off the scoreboard for an in-game stretch longer than 26:01. The key towards limiting the chances against and posting a longer streak comes down to puck possession, as it often does with the Kings.
“Put pucks in behind their D and work them down and limit their time in our own end,” Tanner Pearson said. “The more we’re on the offense is better for us.”
— Randy Hahn (@sharkvoice) April 24, 2014
The forward lines used at the Kings’ morning skate were those that had yet to be used in a game at any point this season. For the first time since Marian Gaborik made his debut on March 6, the Kings’ top trade target won’t skate on a line with both Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams. Instead, Williams will skate opposite Dwight King on a line centered by Jarret Stoll, and Dustin Brown will skate to Kopitar’s right.
“Hopefully he gives us a little size and power,” Darryl Sutter said of Brown. “That line, I think, when we play against Thornton, we’ve had trouble with the size of Burns and Thornton, quite honest, and I guess to answer it best, is when we talk to the players and coaches about very much staying in seven defensemen and 11 forwards, so we need guys moving around.”
There was a touch more familiarity with the second line, which featured Jeff Carter flanked by rookies Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli.
“Toff and Carts are kind of the same, they’re both shooters, they’re both goal scorers and Jeff can fly down the wing,” Pearson said. “I just kind of get in there and go to the front of the net and use my body and my speed and that will hopefully create chances.”
The three developed chemistry late in the season as Mike Richards was shifted to play with a contingent of Kyle Clifford, Trevor Lewis and Jordan Nolan. It appears Richards will center Clifford and Lewis in Game 4. As always, lines are fluid. But count on these alignments for the first 14 minutes of five-on-five first period play.
— Elliott Teaford (@ElliottTeaford) April 24, 2014
In news that doesn’t center around Game 4 preparation, Anze Kopitar was revealed as a Selke Trophy finalist earlier in the day and spoke briefly after the morning skate about the honor.
“It’s really nice to be nominated, obviously, but right now is not the time to think about that,” Kopitar said. “I’ll think about that when it’s all said and done.”
And that’s when the discussion gravitated back towards Game 4.
“Now we have put ourselves against the wall and it’s a do-or-die situation for us. There is no secret to it,” he said. “I think it can be done. It’s going to be very hard for sure. But I also think that we have the character in this locker room that believes that it can be done and we’re going to go out and perform and do our best.”
That a teammate was a finalist for a prestigious league award was spoken proudly around the dressing room, and Doughty spoke highly of the center’s defensive acumen.
“He’s unbelievable at it,” Doughty said. “He’s one of the best two-way forwards in the league and I think one of the best overall centermen in the league. Once again, playing in LA lacks a little bit of recognition, and maybe he might not win it even though I think he deserves to. Everyone can learn things from Anze. He’s an unbelievable person on and off the ice, great leader, and a very, very good player. I’m happy to say I could play with him for six years so far.”
— Kevin Kurz (@KKurzCSN) April 24, 2014