In case you hadn’t heard, the Kings and Ducks meet on Thursday night at Staples Center in a game that has major implications for the Pacific Division title. To recap, if the teams finish tied atop the division, Los Angeles wins the division because it holds the regulation and overtime wins tiebreaker. So if the Kings win on Thursday in regulation and in any fashion against the Jets on Saturday, they win the division. That’s one scenario, among several, that could determine the winner of the Pacific.
Also of note: Los Angeles’ magic number to earn home ice in the first round of the playoffs is 1. Any single point gained by the Kings or not claimed by the Sharks ensures that the first round of the playoffs will open at Staples Center next week.
Darryl Sutter spoke on the variables impacting the final two games of the season on Wednesday afternoon. (The Ducks, for your records, end the season with a back-to-back in Colorado and Washington on Saturday and Sunday, with the latter game the make-up of a game originally scheduled for January 22 before it was postponed due to a heavy snowstorm.)
As for today’s practice, it was, as expected, highly optional. The only skaters to take the ice were Nic Dowd, Matt Greene and Marian Gaborik. While Gaborik and Greene have been skating, neither’s return is imminent. No goaltenders took the ice, and by the time the media entered the team’s facility, most players had already departed. Several Luke Schenn thoughts will follow later today.
Darryl Sutter, on the tie atop the Pacific Division:
Yeah, it’s pretty cool. Three teams, all California teams. Pretty neat. All three teams know they’re in the playoffs, and that’s important.
Sutter, on how Anaheim’s forecheck compares to Dallas’:
All teams forecheck the same now. [Reporter: They’re all similar styles?] 30 teams forecheck the same, based on what the score is and what’s going on.
Sutter, on whether positioning for the Kings, Sharks and Ducks even matters:
You play the whole year, and you have goals at the start of the year, and you guys, for whatever reason the last couple weeks, you keep bringing it up for no really good reason. I mean, you start the year, and you have holes. 30 teams. I used to hear this as a young player that coaches would always stand up and say, ‘our goal is to win the Stanley Cup.’ It happens sometimes not ever in a career or in a team’s franchise. It never happens, so that shouldn’t be your [end goal], especially with the way now with the salary caps and the way rosters are and the parity that there is in the league, that you shouldn’t say that at the start of the year. Your goal at the start of the year should be to be a playoff team, and if you’re the defending champion, or if your team has won the division, if you have a returning roster, then that’s a realistic goal going forward, the next season. So our goal coming into this season was to be a playoff team, and to do that, we had a goal trying to get to 100 points. We’ve done a really good job of that, and us and San Jose being close to Anaheim, that’s their problem, not ours. They’ve won it three years in a row, easy. That was how we thought we could make the playoffs, was to stay close to Anaheim because of the respect we have for them. So saying the importance of where you finish, the importance of where you finish is one-two-three. That’s the importance. Finish in the top-three in your division. That’s how the playoffs are set up now.
Sutter, on getting players’ games in order and moving towards “playoff mode”:
To answer your question … just straight up, injuries and schedule getting into playoff mode, so you see guys get used a lot different once you’ve secured a playoff spot. After that, it’s up to the individual, if he’s healthy, to get his game in order. There’s not a dramatic change in system. Let’s not take the playbook back or ‘do this stuff.’ It stays the same. So at the end, it’s up to the individual, and he’s healthy, and he’s ready, and if he’s had the experience of playing in a playoff series or playing and being dressed in game one or being up one or down one, all that stuff, that’s how you play. [Reporter: But how much does a team’s ability to be resilient play into getting it to that mode?] Well, you have to be resilient to make the playoffs. You don’t get in by luck, accident, good fortune. You’ve got to be resilient to play 82 games in, what is it, 180 days? So I’m not tired today, and I know guys who were on the trip sure look tired today. I coach for April, May and June.