The Kings were the first eighth-seeded team to win the Stanley Cup, making a little NHL history last year. They were the first team to win the Cup without the benefit of home-ice advantage in any of their four playoff rounds. So far this season, they look more like a typical team in the playoffs, struggling to win away from home. They are 1-3 away from Staples Center going into Game 4 on Tuesday at HP Pavilion in San Jose.
The Kings are 5-0 at Staples Center during the playoffs, which probably didn’t play any role in coach Darryl Sutter’s decision to return to Southern California after Game 3 to practice Sunday and Monday. It was better to be home with the family rather than being stuck in a hotel in San Jose, according to team captain Dustin Brown.
Kings right wing Justin Williams talked Monday about the need to make life more difficult for San Jose Sharks goalie Antti Niemi in Game 4 of the teams’ second-round playoff series Tuesday night. He also spoke about great efficiency on the power-play.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter wouldn’t come out and say winger Kyle Clifford would play in Game 4 against the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday. Sutter did say everyone on the ice for Monday’s practice in El Segundo was available to play. Clifford was on the ice, so he is available to play. See how that works? Clifford, who is scoreless in five games while playing an average of about 9 1/2 minutes, suffered a shoulder injury during the Kings’ first-round victory over the St. Louis Blues and hasn’t played in the second round.
Justin Williams called out the Kings’ best offensive players Monday afternoon. He was calm, cool and collected as he spoke after he and his teammates practiced at its El Segundo training facility and before they boarded their chartered flight for San Jose.
Kings captain Dustin Brown was named Monday as one of three finalists for the 2012-13 Mark Messier NHL Leadership Award, presented to “the player who exemplifies great leadership qualities to his team, on and off the ice during the regular season.” Daniel Alfredsson of the Ottawa Senators and Jonathan Toews of the Chicago Blackhawks are the other finalists, the league announced.
The Kings were questioning the call of goaltender interference on Trevor Lewis that led to the Sharks’ power-play, game-winner but Anze Kopitar hopes the Kings don’t dwell on that.
“(We’re) not happy, but we can’t do anything about it,” Kopitar said. “It’s the position we put ourselves into that’s mind-bloggling. It’s not the way we want to play, being in that situation. We came close to killing it off. We said all along before the series you can’t give them too many opportunities because they will score.”
The teams have combined for 20 penalties in GAmes 2 and 3, so it should be no surprise the series is being called tight. And the officials aren’t holding their whistles late, either.
“(I’m) not happy taking that many penalities,” Sutter said. “It doesn’t matter if we agree with the calls or not. It doesn’t have an impact on anything.”
The Kings were a bit more subdued in their critique of officials calls that led to the 5-on-3 power play and San Jose Sharks OT goal and win in Game 3 … Kyle Clifford was practicing again Sunday morning and Jarret Stoll was not.
Said Anze Kopitar:
“Just regroup, refocus and get back at it on Tuesday. Going to be a big game for us. We want to make sure we’re ready. I’m sure they’ve used momentum from last night. We’re certainly going to try to stomp on it from the get-go.”
The Kings killed off all of a two-man disadvantage, but Joe Thornton pass the puck to Patrick Marleau near the right goal post and Marleau shifted it to Logan Couture in the slot for the winning goal while the Sharks skated 5-on-4. San Jose’s victory trimmed the Kings’ deficit to 2-1 in the best-of-7 series. The Kings are scheduled to return to El Segundo for a little rest, recovery and preparation for the next two days. Game 4 is in San Jose on Tuesday. The Kings must avoid the penalty box, as they did in the closing moments of the third period. Robyn Regehr was penalized for hooking and Trevor Lewis followed him to the penalty box for running into goaltender Antti Niemi. It wasn’t a disciplined finished.