EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – If the New Jersey Devils are to prevent the Los Angeles Kings from doing something the Kings have done in every series so far this postseason – take a 3-0 series lead – they will have to overcome some major jetlag to do so.
When the Devils boarded a flight to Los Angeles Sunday morning for Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup Final it was the first time the team had boarded a flight for a game since April 26 when they played the Florida Panthers in the quarterfinals. When they landed in Los Angeles, it was the first time the team had been outside of the Eastern Time Zone since Jan. 14 when they played the Winnipeg Jets.
The Kings, like most West Coast teams in the NHL, on the other hand, are used to the travel and boarded their flight back to Los Angeles right after Game 2.
"It was a good flight," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "We tried to get out of there by midnight. We were off the ground by one and everyone was in bed by 4:30. We looked at contingency plans if we went to a second overtime. We had rooms at the airport so we could get there and get up early and go. I still think it was in the best interest of our team to come home. We're used to it a little bit during the season."
The Kings didn’t practice Sunday but many players did come in for treatment and for media availability.
"Most of the guys got a couple of hours of sleep on the plane," Sutter said. "A lot of the guys that didn’t have to come in today got up at mid-morning and are good to go I think."
Not only are the Kings accustomed to traveling more miles than most teams because of their location geographically with the rest of the league, but they have become used to playing on the road as the No. 8 seed this postseason. They have responded by winning an NHL playoff record 10 straight road games this year and 12 straight dating back to last season.
Don’t look for Sutter or anyone on the team to be that impressed with their road record or winning 11 of their last 12 games dating back to April 22 until they win two more games. None of their current winning streaks means anything to Sutter, who played eight years with the Chicago Blackhawks and remembers in 1991 when Chicago’s 11-game playoff winning streak ended in a sweep at the hands of the Pittsburgh Penguins in the Stanley Cup Final.
“What do you want to talk about?” Sutter said, when asked about the winning streak. “We won 11 in a row to go to the Stanley Cup Final in Chicago and the team that beat us in the Final won 11 in a row so I think that’s hallowed ground. That’s pretty unbelievable what Pittsburgh did that year.”
The large media contingent covering the Stanley Cup Final forced the Kings to hold their availability on the practice court of the Los Angeles Lakers. It was the first time anyone on the Kings had been on the court and many took a quick look at the championship banners and trophies displayed on the office windows when they walked onto the court on Sunday.
"I didn’t even know this place existed," Kings defenseman Matt Greene said. "I thought it was a myth."
Drew Doughty smiled as he looked up at the championship banners before he walked off the court.
"It’s the first time I’ve actually been here," Doughty. "It would be nice to throw one of these up in our practice facility."
Carter proves doubters wrong
Jeff Carter had his fair share of doubters after he was traded from the Philadelphia Flyers to the Columbus Blue Jackets last June and again in February when he was traded to the Kings. After playing in the Stanley Cup Final two years earlier with Mike Richards in Philadelphia, he was reunited with his old friend to prove his naysayers wrong. Needless to say Carter’s game-winning goal in overtime in Game 2 went a long way in silencing his critics.
"There was a lot of people doubting me out there and I l know that," Carter said. "I look at this as an opportunity to win a Stanley Cup and prove everybody wrong."
Richards, who stayed in touch with Carter after they both were traded from Philadelphia until they were reunited in Los Angeles, knows how much the game-winning goal meant to Carter and how big it was in his redemption story.
"He's a guy that has confidence and you can see that confidence on the ice," Richards said. "When you get traded you almost take that personally and as a slap in the face. Nobody likes being traded but everything happens for a reason. If there are doubters you want to prove them wrong. That’s just the nature of being a hockey player."