John Stevens on tonight’s game, Kings-Ducks rivalry, divisional games, more

On whether the energy on the ice was different than Friday:
Yesterday was interesting just to watch because there were some guys that you could see that really pushed themselves. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy coming off a break and to get back on the ice. We didn’t expect it to be easy. We didn’t expect the execution to be perfect. The ice was a little sluggish yesterday, which might be a good thing that added to it, but I really thought that a lot of the guys did a good job of just pushing themselves knowing that it was going to feel a little foggy. It was going to feel a little sluggish. The execution wasn’t going to be create and that it would help us today. I thought today was much better. I thought the energy was good. I thought guys looked like they’re thinking about a game day and are getting ready to go. It’s a little unusual coming off a break when you play so quickly, but it is what it is, and you’ve got to make the best of it, and I thought the guys so far handled it well.

On whether he’ll stress a “simplicity type of message” early in tonight’s game:
Absolutely, I think for a lot of reasons. If you were just coming off a break, for sure you would, but obviously with the celebration before the game and the delay, I think it’s even more important that you let the puck do the work for you, you play a simple, straight-ahead game, you keep the shift lengths short and try to get everybody involved right away and get some pace in our game where we’re not [for] extended periods of time we’re trying to be too cute where we’re self-inflicting wounds early in a hockey game. And, discipline will go a long with that as well – not putting the other team on a power play where we can play five-on-five and get everybody involved.

On the Kings-Ducks rivalry:
It’s a big rivalry. I think for me, and my time in hockey, any time you’ve met a team in the playoffs, there usually is a rivalry established. We’re two teams that are trying to get to the same place and stay in each other’s way, so I think when you have that situation, there’s a lot of respect for each other, but I think there’s a real conscious note that we’re both standing in each other’s way to try to get to where we want to get to in the division and the playoffs, so these games have a lot of meaning, and they’ve been played that way.

On how he’d compare Kings-Ducks to other NHL rivalries:
I think they’re right up there. They’re intense, they’ve got great players on both sides. You look at both teams, you have great goalies on both teams. You have great defensemen on both teams. You have some great forwards on both teams that have won Cups before and have represented their country, so all the elements are there and when you’re 45 minutes away and in the State of California, I think there’s a lot of things that add to it. The rivalry, since I’ve been here, has been great. It’s been fun to be a part of, it’s intense, I think there’s a lot of pressure on these games and I think that’s what you want as a player and as a team.

On Alex Iafallo getting a “second run” with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown:
We’ve moved our left side all year, to be honest with you, and we’ve done it in-game, so we’re not quite exactly sure how it’s all going to fall out, but sometimes it’s in-game, sometimes it’s a match-up. It seems like we have a lot of continuity with our center position and our right side. The left side’s been the side that’s moved the most, but it’s helped us, too. We feel good that we have guys like Alex and Gabby and Tanner that can move around and play with a variety of people and get good results, and I would suspect that would continue.

On whether he’ll try to get players away from Ryan Kesler’s “shutdown line”:
We’re not going to run from it. Why would we? Anze Kopitar and Kempe, they’ve shown they can play against anybody. He’s a great player, and I think Getzlaf’s been a dominant player as of late, and they’ve got lots of players – Henrique gives them another guy that’s a really good defensive player. I think we counted – they’ve got up to eight centermen in their lineup, so they’re a talented team. They’ve got some real good veteran leadership, they’re good on faceoffs, they play the game hard, they’re a different team. The last time we played them, Getzlaf and Kesler [were out], and Perry’s back in their lineup now. They’re a different team. They’ve been waiting all year to get their lineup healthy again, but we’re not going to run from a match-up and we’re not going to be chasing people on and off the ice. We’re going to expect our guys, we’re going to trust our guys to play against whoever they’re on the ice against at that given time and get the job done.

On whether the coaching staff takes a greater focus on divisional games:
Well, I think the implications are obvious. I would guess Vegas has the best division record, conference record, and they are where they are. I think any time you’re playing a team or you’re fighting for a position in the division, they say they’re four-point games. They are. You can give up a point to a team in the east and win in overtime or lose in overtime, you still get points and it doesn’t matter if they get points because they’re not directly related to your position in the standings. Well, these teams, they are. The division for us is the most important thing. You want to finish top-three in the division, you want to avoid the wild card, and you look at how strong the Central is. I think the division games are big, and I think the conference games have more meaning than they used to.

-Omitted quotes on Alex Iafallo, Jake Muzzin and Bob Miller were included in today’s morning skate report
-Lead photo via Juan Ocampo/NHLI

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