Third place, ninth place both still highly possible

As noted in yesterday’s item about the Western Conference standings, the Kings are in an interesting spot. In seventh place, it’s not out of the question that they could still take a run at San Jose for the Pacific Division title. On the other hand, there are five teams below the Kings that are within six points, and if a couple of them get on a hot streak, look out. This is certainly nothing new. In recent years, the conference race has been a down-to-the-wire affair. The Kings’ first priority should be to put some distance between themselves and ninth place. Worrying about San Jose is secondary. At the start of the season, that certainly wasn’t the Kings’ thought or plan, but this is the situation they have put themselves in. The question, to Darryl Sutter, was, “Is the glass half full or half empty?” Meaning, does the team look ahead, to teams it can catch, or look behind to see which teams are catching up?

SUTTER: “I’m the `full’ guy. It can get frustrating when you look at it. (Against Calgary last week), we outchanced the other team 20-12, and you lose in the friggin shootout and you have three empty nets in overtime.

“That’s what it is. Unless you’re a team that is one of the best teams in the league, the defending Stanley Cup champions or the New York Rangers, Vancouver Canucks, Chicago again now, Detroit. That’s a different level, based on what they’ve done and what they’re doing. So the next part is, you get in. If we can keep pressure on other teams, that makes them have to play better too. I just don’t see enough of a gap in all the teams. The three things that impact you all are schedules, injuries and officiating. So it depends on your travel within that schedule, and then good calls — or maybe you think it’s a bad call — and then injuries. Over the course of the season, you can say, `We played good against (one team) and didn’t play good against (another team),’ but those three things have a big impact. So you have to get in, and keep putting pressure on other teams.”

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