The Kings have blanked the Chicago Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane in the first three games of the Western Conference finals, one reason why they took a two-games-to-none lead into Game 4 on Monday night at Staples Center.
“We’ve got to keep playing him the same way,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We’ve got to keep playing him very hard. We can’t give him a lot of space. He’ll try to find speed and ice underneath and just kind of weave his way into the zone and create offensive chances that way.”
Doughty said the Kings expect more from Kane, who had six goals and four assists in the first two rounds for the Blackhawks.
“We just need to stay tight with him,” Doughty said. “We’ve been doing a good job but we know he’s going to play his best game tonight, so we’re going to have to pay special attention to him. We just want to play him hard, hit him hard. I think that’s the way you take him off his game, play him physical. We need to continue to be doing that and take his space away.”
Said Kings coach Darryl Sutter: “Kane is a scary guy. We talk about it all the time. You know what? The more you play him, the more you know it’s coming somewhere. We’re very familiar with him and we’re very respectful of what he brings to the team. … He’s had some brilliant opportunities. Those guys like that, they only need those one or two.”
Here’s what Jeff Carter had to say about playing with Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli after their line propelled the Kings to a 4-3 victory Saturday night in Game 3 and a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series: “It’s been great. Obviously, they have a lot of chemistry playing together in Manchester (of the AHL). They’re working hard and they’re having fun. They use their speed and skill to create opportunities. Kind of dragging me along with them, so it’s been good.”
Pearson: “I think everyone is stepping up all at once and knowing the job we have to get done. Tonight, we succeeded in that again. … We’re definitely rolling pretty good, but we can’t take our foot off the gas pedal. We’ve got to keep on going, each and every game. We’re capitalizing on our chances and it’s working out.”
Toffoli: “I’m having fun. This is incredible. Obviously, as a young guy, you dream of being in the Stanley Cup playoffs and the past three games have been probably my best three games of the playoffs.”
The Kings are 3-3 at Staples Center going into Game 3 of the Western Conference finals against the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday. They also are 6-4 on the road after winning Game 2 of the best-of-7 series Wednesday in Chicago. The Kings eliminated the Sharks in Game 7 in San Jose in the first round and then did the same to the Ducks in Anaheim in the second.
“It’s always nice to play at home and have home-ice advantage, but one thing about it: we’re comfortable on the road and I think if you’re not comfortable on the road you’re probably not playing at this time of the year,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said of the road-ice advantage so far in the playoffs. It’s one of those things that comes into play, but at the end of the day, at this time of the year, it’s about finding a way. Home and road, we haven’t been very good at home and that’s going to be a challenge for us, to have that same focus at home.”
Jill Painter will have much more on this subject in her column for the Los Angeles News Group, but here’s what two of Drew Doughty’s Kings teammates are saying about him in comparison to the now-retired Nicklas Lidstrom of Detroit:
Kings center Anze Kopitar (after a 6-2 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday’s: “I’ve been saying this for a couple of years now, but he’s our Nick Lidstrom. We all know what he did in Detroit for many, many years. I think Drew likes the big stage. He likes these types of games. He gets very emotional. He just brings his game to the next level at this time of the year and in these types of games.”
Kings captain Dustin Brown (after Friday’s practice): “I can’t speak for ‘Kopi’, but the way I look at that is Drew has a long way to go to be a Nick Lidstrom. But I think he has the impact on our team comparable to the impact that Lidstrom had on Detroit. Their skill sets are similar but I think Drew has a long way to go to be that player. But his impact on our team has a similar effect. I think there’s been a big growth spurt from him from that (leadership) standpoint in the last year and half. Just being more vocal and saying certain things at the right time. … He’s kind of coming into his own as an off-ice kind of guy with his personality and the way he’s matured. He’s getting to that time where he’s taken more of a role.”
Dean Lombardi of the Kings, Bob Murray of the Ducks and Marc Bergevin of the Montreal Canadiens were named as finalists for the General Manager of the Year Award. It’s the first time for Lombardi; Murray and Bergevin are finalists for the second consecutive season.
Lombardi guided the Kings to their fifth consecutive playoff appearance and pulled off a trade for veteran winger Marian Gaborik that jump-started the Kings’ lackluster offense following a March 5 deal with the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Voting was conducted among the 30 NHL general managers plus a group of league executives, print and broadcast media after the second round of the playoffs. The winner will be announced during the NHL Awards Show on June 24 in Las Vegas.
“It’s good because it’s an award that’s voted by the managers … Lot of them aren’t,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said when asked about Lombardi.
Jeff Carter’s third-period hat trick in Game 2 of the Western Conference finals marked the first time a Kings player scored three goals in a single period in a playoff game since Tommy Williams on April 14, 1974. Carter’s three-goal game was the 11th in Kings playoff history and his second. He added an assist on Tyler Toffoli’s third-period goal, giving him four points in the period and enabling him to set a club record and tie an NHL mark.
Asked if it was the best period of hockey he’s played in his career, Carter said, “I didn’t really have to do too much for them. Stood in front of them for the first one. ‘Greener’ (Matt Greene) and Tanner (Pearson) made a great play on the second one, so … It was a good period, but I really didn’t have to do too much.”
The matchup of top-line centers in the Western Conference finals is one of the most intriguing of the series. Anze Kopitar of the Kings got the better of the Chicago Blackhawks’ Jonathan Toews in a 6-2 victory in Game 2 on Wednesday. That’s to say, Kopitar helped to keep Toews off the score sheet after Toews did the same to him in Game 1 on Sunday. The push in Game 2 benefited the Kings. Toews had a goal in Game 1 and helped to keep Kopitar scoreless.
A door opened suddenly and Anze Kopitar emerged from one of a dozen or so auxiliary locker rooms along a dimly-lit corridor in the basement of the United Center in Chicago. Two reporters waited for him, far from the maddening crowd in the Kings’ locker room.
Continue reading “Kings center Anze Kopitar talks about Jonathan Toews and the Selke Trophy” »
There was zero actual news as the Kings and Blackhawks held practices Tuesday at the United Center in preparation for Game 2 of the Western Conference finals. There was the possibility that Chicago center Andrew Shaw could return to the lineup after suffering a leg injury during the Blackhawks’ second-round series victory over the Minnesota Wild. But no decision was made either way.
“It’s good to be back,” Shaw said. “It sucks being away from the guys. We have such a tight-knit group. It’s all smiles to be back out there with them. I feel like it looks good (to play in Game 2), so I feel pretty good, too.”
The Kings lines and defense pairs appeared to be unchanged from Game 1, with defenseman Willie Mitchell skating with Slava Voynov. Mitchell sat out all of the Kings’ second-round victory over the Ducks because of a leg injury suffered in Game 6 of their first-round win over the San Jose Sharks. He returned and played a sound game in the Kings’ 3-1 loss to the Blackhawks in Game 1.
The flight from LAX to Chicago was no big deal for the Kings. It was the usual four-plus hours from the West Coast to the Midwest. They didn’t have much time after eliminating the Ducks in Game 7 on Friday before they departed for Chicago and Game 1 of the Western Conference finals Sunday. So, finding enough hotel rooms was an issue for the second consecutive conference finals, though.
Like last year, the team had to change hotels because of a number of conventions filled up hotels in the downtown area. Actually, last year there was only one, but it was a big one and had Kings coach Darryl Sutter feeling nostalgic as he watched convention goers dressed as their favorite Star Trek characters.
“That was in my age group,” Sutter said Tuesday. “A lot of our players didn’t know who all those guys walking around in the blue-and-gold tights were. That’s what happens in the playoffs. You don’t know your schedule, especially with the city being so busy and conventions going on. We talked abut it before we got here. We knew we were changing hotels.”