It certain seems as if Kings coach Darryl Sutter has settled on Jonathan Quick as his No. 1 goaltender now that the regular season is down to only three games and the Stanley Cup playoffs are right around the corner. Sutter had this to say about Quick, who made 24 saves in the Kings’ 4-3 overtime win over the Dallas Stars on Sunday night: “I think he’s been really good for us lately and I think it’s kind of on record of him saying that it’s about winning games and us saying it’s about giving us a chance to win.”
A victory Saturday for the Vancouver Canucks over the Detroit Red Wings will enable the Kings to clinch a playoff berth. It would only be the first step for the Kings in their attempt to become the first team since the Red Wings in 1997 and ’98 to win consecutive Cups. f the Red Wings defeated the Canucks, the Kings could clinch on their own with a victory Sunday over the Dallas Stars.
“I know it’s sexy and all that for everybody to say, ‘Oh, our goal this year is to win the Stanley Cup,’” Sutter said of simply qualifying for the postseason “Well, 30 teams say that. That’s their goal every year. I’ve heard that for 30-something years. Really, your goal going in, especially now, is to make it (to the playoffs).”
After a day off after his first game since Jan. 19, Kings defenseman Matt Greene reported no setbacks following Saturday’s practice. Greene played a regular shift in Thursday’s victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets, his first game after suffering a back injury that required surgery. Greene wasn’t all that impressed with his play Thursday, which impressed Kings coach Darryl Sutter on Saturday.
Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter had to say about the rough play after the whistles during much of a 2-1 victory Thursday over the Columbus Blue Jackets, a game in which they gave as good as they got: “We played desperate against a desperate hockey club. There was lots going on out there. Typical Columbus and L.A. game, right? Heavy lifting.”
Sutter also said: “I think there was lots (of physical play) after whistles tonight. Both teams have guys that get involved and want to play a physical game that’s right on the edge.”
Defenseman Matt Greene, who injured his back during the Kings’ season-opening game Jan. 19 against the Chicago Blackhawks, returned to the active roster Thursday after sitting out 42 games. The Kings activated him from injured reserve, announcing the move before the team’s morning skate. The team faced the Columbus Blue Jackets later in the evening at Staples Center. Greene was cleared Monday for his full-contact practice since he was hurt. Coach Darryl Sutter hoped Greene could play in Tuesday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, a loss at HP Pavilion. After a practice Wednesday, the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings activated the 29-year-old Greene on Thursday. Sutter said he hoped Greene could play three or four games in preparation for the playoffs, which begin April 30.
The Kings begin the final two weeks of the regular season by visiting the Sharks on Tuesday night in San Jose. It’s never an easy place to win, especially this season. The Sharks have only one loss in regulation in 20 games on home ice. They are 14-1-5 at HP Pavilion, with their only regulation defeat coming Feb. 5 against the Chicago Blackhawks. The King to do nothing different against the Sharks, or in any of their final six games. That’s what coach Darryl Sutter said before the team left for San Jose. Actually, a good old practice is something new and different for the Kings, who had had to balance the need for rest with must-have ice time in order to make adjustments and prepare for opponents. The Kings took Sunday off, practiced Monday and then traveled to San Jose. They play the Sharks on Tuesday, return to El Segundo for practice Wednesday, then face the Columbus Blue Jackets on Thursday. After a day off, they’ll hold a practice Saturday.
That’s a good better schedule that the Kings have had recently.
Next week, it’s gets tougher with the Kings playing their final four games, two at home and two on the road. The playoffs are scheduled to begin April 30.
Kings rookie right wing Tyler Toffoli figures to be a healthy scratch down the stretch and into the playoffs. It’s also possible but perhaps unlikely he’ll be returned to Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League. The Kings plan to work with Toffoli to expand his versatility. He’s a right wing playing on a team that’s overloaded with standouts at that position. The Kings are strong at center, too, which means he would be wise to learn to play the left wing, according to coach Darryl Sutter.
Mike Richards scored the go-ahead goal in the Kings’ 2-1 victory over the Ducks on Saturday night, a flawless laser that eluded goaltender Viktor Fasth for a power-play strike late in the second period. It hardly surprised Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who has seen what Richards can do when the games get more meaningful at this time of the season.
“Well, I think he has gotten stronger for sure,” Sutter said of Richards’ play of late. “And, as is typical with Mike, the bigger it gets, the better he plays. I think it’s on record that he had a tough start and he’s certainly played well lately. We need those centermen to complement each other, that was one of the real strengths of our team last year.”
As much as he wants to play tonight against the Ducks, as much as it’s killing him to sit and watch his teammates skate to secure the highest possible playoff seeding, Kings defenseman Matt Greene might not be fit to rejoin the lineup when the playoffs begin April 30. Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Friday he wasn’t sure when or if Greene would play.
Wouldn’t agree with Kings defenseman Drew Doughty’s assessment of the Kings’ 4-3 shootout loss to the Ducks on Sunday night, but I can appreciate his pride in how well he and his teammates played in rallying three times to force OT and a shootout.