Kings get to battle closest pursuers

There’s no rest for the wicked, or for teams trying to stand on solid ground in the Western Conference playoff race. At this point, there are five teams — Detroit, Vancouver, San Jose, St. Louis and Nashville — that can feel good about themselves, and seven teams — Chicago, the Kings, Phoenix, Calgary, Colorado, Dallas and Minnesota — all eyeing three playoff spots and all within seven points of each other. If nothing else, at least the Kings hold their own fate in their hands, largely. They have two home games this week against Phoenix and Calgary, and then road games against Phoenix and Colorado. So, as Darryl Sutter well knows, the Kings have no time to relax now that their season-long six-game road trip is over.

SUTTER: “It’s the same. I didn’t look at it as a trip. I looked at it as the two back-to-backs and the two games in Florida. Now we do the same thing. We’ve got two at home and two on the road. So you’ve got to break it down and be ready for it. You’re in a position where you want to do everything you can to hold your spot.’’

It was then pointed out to Sutter that the next two teams the Kings face — Phoenix and Calgary — are the two teams directly behind them, the two teams trying to breathe down the Kings’ collective neck…

SUTTER: “Not trying to. They is. [laughs] That’s the best part. That’s the way it’s supposed to be. I didn’t know, with 20-some games left, that it wasn’t supposed to be like that. I would have bet, at the start of the year, if someone had said (you’d be) chasing San Jose. That’s what we’re trying to do.’’

To that end, the Kings have today and tomorrow to prepare for Phoenix, after yesterday’s day off. The Kings held an hour-long practice today — “It was good energy. They needed a day off, and they needed to get their amp going again,’’ Sutter said — but the coach did have to bark at the players once, as periodically happen when drills get messed up and/or aren’t executed properly. As for his scolding today, Sutter said, “Do it right. It’s not that hard. Pass, receive, shoot, skate…’’

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