Los Angeles Hockey: Darryl Sutter

Five questions for the Kings

January, 18, 2013
LOS ANGELES – When the NHL lockout finally ended, it looked like the Los Angeles Kings wouldn’t have many questions heading into this season. Well, at least not as many as their counterparts. After all, they were primed to be the first team in recent memory to return every player on their roster after winning the Stanley Cup.

That was before the Kings shipped forward Kevin Westgarth to Carolina for forward Anthony Stewart and a couple of draft picks. While the Westgarth trade shouldn’t have too much of an effect on the Kings’ on-ice performance (he hasn’t played since last February), there are a few other players from last year’s roster who are question marks for the Kings as the season begins. Their status and the status of the Kings' ownership are two of the many questions facing the team as they look to be the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions in 15 years.

1. Will the Kings suffer a Cup hangover?

If there is one positive about the NHL lockout from the Kings’ perspective it’s that it has been seven months since they’ve won the Stanley Cup. There really shouldn’t be any excuses about hangovers or lack of rest with that much time off. Then again, it’s only natural for a team to have a bit of a letdown after being celebrated as champions for the past seven months.

The Kings have been around the world with the Stanley Cup for over half a year and will once again spend the day with it Saturday as they finally raise their championship banner at Staples Center before their regular season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks. Will it be hard to get motivated for Game 1 of the season after being patted on the back for an hour or so pre-game? Maybe, but the Kings also realize that in a 48-game, intra-conference regular season schedule, there isn’t much time to waste. Kings coach Darryl Sutter basically described it as an extended version of the playoffs.

AEG president and CEO and Kings governor Tim Leiweke said he has experience with championship letdowns after the Los Angeles Galaxy, also owned by AEG, won the MLS Cup in 2011 and started last season 6-11-2 before turning their season around and winning their second straight MLS Cup. The Kings will look to repeat that outcome while getting out of the gates with a better record.

2. How will the impending sale of AEG affect the Kings and their moves?

AEG, which owns the Kings, Galaxy, Staples Center, LA Live, Home Depot Center and hundreds of other assets, is currently up for sale. The sale process is in the early stages but is expected to be completed at some point during the NHL season. So will an ownership change during the season affect the Kings’ chance at repeating? Not at all if you listen to Leiweke, who said the company and whoever the new owner is will be just as committed to putting a championship team on the ice as Philip Anschutz was.

“We’re committed to winning,” Leiweke said. “[Kings general manager Dean Lombardi] has the green light to make any moves he believes will improve this team. Whether that’s signing a player or making a trade or whatever, we’re committed to winning the Cup again.”

Leiweke and AEG already showed their commitment in the offseason by keeping the team intact and inking most of their core players to long-term contracts.

3. How will Jonathan Quick respond to offseason back surgery and what will happen to Jonathan Bernier?

Another one of the positives of the lockout as far as the Kings were concerned is that it gave their goalie and Conn Smythe Trophy winner, Jonathan Quick, more time to recover from offseason back surgery. Quick had surgery in August and if the season had started on time he would have missed at least three months. Quick has been on the ice since the start of training camp and said he feels fine heading into the start of the season. Sutter also mentioned that as long as Quick feels fine he is going to lean on him more during this truncated schedule with the importance of every game heightened.

With Quick healthy and inked to a 10-year $58 million contract, backup goalie Jonathan Bernier, who could probably start on most teams, is looking for playing time elsewhere and hoping the Kings will trade him. The problem for Bernier is the Kings will likely take their time as they wait to see how Quick recovers from his surgery. If he looks fine they’ll probably take some more time evaluating what positions they need and what player or players they can get for Bernier.

In the interim, it looks like a win-win for the Kings who will have Quick back for the start of the season and the best backup goalie in the league waiting in the wings if anything happens to him.

4. How long will Willie Mitchell be out and how will that affect the defense?

Leave it to Sutter to just casually slip in some huge injury news in the midst of talking about a completely different subject. That's essentially how reporters found out that Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell underwent knee surgery in the offseason and is way behind schedule. In fact, he’s so far behind schedule that Sutter doesn’t even have a timetable for his return as the season begins.

Mitchell, who had surgery two months ago, was a vital part of the Kings’ Stanley Cup run and a veteran presence on their suffocating defense in the playoffs. He had five goals and a career-best 24 points in 76 regular-season games and one goal and three points in 20 playoff games. He actually averaged more ice time in the playoffs (25:19) than he did during the regular season (22:14).

As far as replacements go, defenseman Andrew Bodnarchuk was placed on waivers this week, clearing the way for Jake Muzzin to earn a roster spot while Mitchell remains sidelined. Muzzin played 11 games with the Kings during the 2010-11 season and will compete with Davis Drewiske for ice time in Mitchell’s absence.

5. Will a full season of Jeff Carter cure what ailed the Kings’ offense for much of last season?

Those who jumped on the Kings' bandwagon during the playoffs don’t remember how bad the Kings offense was during the season. It was actually beyond dreadful. In fact, it was so bad you had to feel sorry for Quick, who midway through last season had given up an average of 1.93 goals per game, making him one of just four NHL goaltenders with a GAA below two, but it was largely lost while playing behind the league’s lowest scoring team.

Even with a man advantage, the Kings had a hard time scoring as their power play ranked 16th and converted just 12.8% in the postseason. The Kings finished the regular season 29th in goals per game at just 2.29 per contest.

The Kings are hoping having Jeff Carter, who came over in a trade for Jack Johnson in February, for a full season will fix the Kings’ scoring woes early on. Not only will the Kings have Carter to begin the season but if Simon Gagne, who missed much of last season, can return to his old form and Dwight King and Jordan Nolan, who stepped up at the end of the regular season and the postseason continue to develop, offense might not be as much of a concern for the Kings this season.

Lombardi takes elevator to the top

June, 15, 2012
Dean LombardiBruce Bennett/Getty ImagesDean Lombardi is humble when it comes to the Kings' accomplishments, but he had a major hand in helping them get there.

LOS ANGELES -- What must have seemed like the longest elevator ride of his life finally came to a halt shortly before 8 p.m. Monday night.

The Los Angeles Kings had just clinched their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history, and general manager Dean Lombardi, in his sixth season at the helm, was rushing from the press box inside Staples Center to the arena floor, hoping to reach the ice in time for the Cup presentation by NHL commissioner Gary Bettman.

"Hold on, Bettman. I've got to see this," Lombardi hollered at the elevator door, which was nearly pressed against his face.

A few seconds later, Lombardi and a handful of executives were speed-walking down the hallway and disappearing around a corner.

The 45-year wait was over.

The scene was in stark contrast to my first experience behind L.A.'s curtains, 4½ years ago.

It was just after Christmas 2007, when I was asked by a senior editor at another publication in town to cover practice the following morning. Eager to move up the chain after 14 years of mostly writing about high school sports, I enthusiastically accepted the assignment, even though I kept it to myself that I hadn’t been following the team in my spare time.

My first order of business was uncovering what the Kings had done lately. Much to my surprise, they had lost eight straight games, which remains their longest losing streak since dropping their final 11 in 2004.

Walking into the locker room the next day, it was as quiet as a college library during finals week.

Michael Cammalleri, nursing sore ribs at the time, didn't even bother to look up when asked about the progress of his injury.

Rob Blake, rumored to be heading to a playoff-bound team looking to shore up its defensive corps, said he would gladly waive his no-trade clause if approached.

Patrick O'Sullivan looked like the most sullen guy in L.A.

That was Season 2 of Lombardi's rebuilding plan, and he said everything was proceeding as planned.

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Leiweke remembers those from the past

June, 13, 2012
LOS ANGELES -- Before the Los Angeles Kings are publicly recognized for winning the Stanley Cup with a downtown parade Thursday, the organization’s governor, Tim Leiweke, took time to recognize Terry Murray and Dave Taylor, two men who helped guide the organization to where it is today, but weren't around to enjoy the fruits of their labor.

Murray coached the Kings for 3 1/2 seasons before he was fired in mid-December. Using the offensive and defensive systems Murray put in place, Darryl Sutter took over behind the bench and led L.A. to its first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

“To me, we're not here without Terry,” Leiweke said Wednesday afternoon on the Mason & Ireland show on 710 ESPN radio. “He did a great job of teaching us a system that allowed us to win a Cup.”

Leiweke had similar praise for Taylor, the longest-tenured member of the Kings who served as general manager from 1997 to 2006. It was Taylor who drafted current Kings’ stars Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. After the Kings qualified for the playoffs only four times in that span, winning just one series, Leiweke decided it was time for a change and brought in Dean Lombardi.

“I hated that decision to this day,” Leiweke said. “I probably don't have a very good relationship with Dave, but I've sent him an e-mail and told him we wouldn't be here without you. You have as much to do with this as anybody.”

Leiweke said members of the Kings organization, including owner Philip Anschutz, have also reached out to Murray, who kept busy scouting potential Eastern Conference playoff opponents for the Kings. He said Murray will be awarded a championship ring and the team is lobbying to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.

To hear the complete interview, click this link.

Kings: 10 most defining moments of 2011-12 season

June, 12, 2012
Los Angeles KingsJeff Gross/Getty ImagesThe Stanley Cup was the ultimate prize, but there were many defining moments in the Kings' season.

With the Stanley Cup securely in the hands of the Los Angeles Kings, now’s a good time to look back at the defining moments of last season, an eight-month journey that figures to be remembered for decades to come. In chronological order:

1. Home opener -- After starting the regular season with two games in Europe and two more on the East Coast, the Kings finally had a chance to play in front of their home crowd. Featuring a lineup that many believed could contend for a Pacific Division title, L.A. played just as well as advertised, cruising to a 5-0 victory against the St. Louis Blues. Kings left wing Simon Gagne, one of five players who joined L.A. in the offseason, had two goals and an assist in the victory.

2. Quick’s shutout streak -- The home opener against the Blues marked the beginning of a franchise-record three consecutive shutouts by Kings goalie Jonathan Quick. After the St. Louis game, he followed up by blanking the Phoenix Coyotes (2-0) and Dallas Stars (1-0). In one of the more questionable moves of coach Terry Murray’s tenure, he decided to rest Quick for a game following the Dallas win and that seemed to take him out of his groove. He went winless in six of his next seven starts, giving up 21 goals in that span.

3. Murray fired/Sutter hired -- The above-mentioned skid was the first indication the Kings were more than capable of underachieving. After another four-game losing spell in early December, general manager Dean Lombardi made the difficult decision to fire Murray, a man who implemented his defense-first identity but was unable to get the players to feel accountable for their poor play. Lombardi placed a call to Darryl Sutter at his barn in Alberta and asked if he was interested in the reclamation project. The rest, as they say, is history.

4. King/Nolan recall -- Sutter didn’t press all the right buttons immediately. In fact, the Kings weren’t able to win more than two straight games his first two months behind the bench. In an effort to bring more youth and size to the wings, the Kings brought up rookies Dwight King and Jordan Nolan from their AHL team in Manchester in early February, and they fit into the lineup like a new pair of boxing gloves. In their second game with the Kings, they each scored in a 4-2 victory against the Stars. King moved from the second to the third line late in the opening-round series against the Vancouver Canucks and went on to contribute five goals and three assists in the final 13 playoff games.

5. Carter trade -- After winning just three of the first 11 games in February, eliminating their wiggle room inside the top eight in the Western Conference, management went for broke Feb. 23 and traded defenseman Jack Johnson to the last-place Columbus Blue Jackets for high-scoring right wing Jeff Carter. The move rounded out the top six forwards for the Kings and didn’t force them to subtract from their back end, as rookie Slava Voynov was ready to assume a full-time role in the NHL. Carter started slow with L.A. but caught fire in the second half of their playoff run, scoring seven goals in the final 10 games.

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Kings: Another opportunity to clinch arrives with Game 6

June, 11, 2012
Stanley Cup finals

Game 6 (Kings lead series, 3-2)

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Staples Center, 5 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Clock is ticking – So close has been Lord Stanley’s Cup the past two games, the Kings could almost see it, nearly touch it and practically feel the tradition reverberating from its sterling silver. But the Devils didn’t roll over in Game 4, and then pushed back a little more in Game 5, leaving L.A. still one win from raising its first Cup. Despite the luxury of having two more chances to win one more game, this has to be considered a Game 7 for the Kings. They want no part of a seventh game Wednesday in Newark, no matter how well they’ve played on the road. If they hope to stem this rising New Jersey tide, the Kings need to play their best game of the series.

2. Added demands – Only two members of the current Devils team were on the organization’s 2003 team, the last to win the Stanley Cup: goalie Martin Brodeur and forward Patrik Elias. But the entire squad seems to have developed a been there, done that attitude. New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer poked fun at the Kings after practice Sunday, saying the Devils had noticed a stream of limousines parked outside Staples Center prior to Game 4, just waiting to whisk the Kings to an after-party once they completed the sweep. Earlier in the day, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty admitted there were some outside distractions prior to Game 4. “We were nervous, worried about other things," he said. "All of us in the room were kind of frustrated that we were thinking about things ahead of time.” Doughty said coach Darryl Sutter vowed to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. No word if he confiscated their cellphones.

3. Mission in action – If the Kings hope to wrap up the Cup, they must squeeze more production from their top six forwards. The only member of that group who has played better as the series has rolled along is right wing Justin Williams. He scored goals in two of the past three games and rang the post twice as well. Dustin Brown was so ineffective down the stretch of Game 5 that he sat out the last five minutes, and their leading scorer in the playoffs, Anze Kopitar, hasn’t recorded a shot on goal the past two games. The only thing the second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner has generated the past two games is more length to their beards.

4. Where’s Simon? – After missing nearly six months with a concussion, Simon Gagne has appeared in three straight games for the Kings. Sutter was hoping he would generate some offense in place of Brad Richardson, but so far he has recorded zero points. Even more telling for those who didn’t like the move in the first place, the Kings are 1-2 with Gagne in the lineup. He has the offensive skill of a top-six forward but is still limited to fourth-line minutes, Sutter said. Gagne took a few shifts with Kopitar and Williams late in Saturday night’s loss, but since stamina is still an issue, Sutter can only go with that look intermittently, leaving him to roll with three lines. It will be interesting to see how Sutter uses Gagne moving forward, if he uses him at all.

5. Quick response – The last time Jonathan Quick gave up a soft goal in the playoffs — a shot from the red line against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals — he came back with a shutout in Game 2. L.A. fans are hoping he responds with a similar effort after his mishap with the puck midway through the first period of Game 5 allowed the Devils to take a 1-0 lead in a game they eventually won 2-1. Quick has been phenomenal in these playoffs and will likely wrap up the Conn Smythe Trophy if he can put the Kings on his shoulders once more.

Kings again leave the Cup on the table

June, 10, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. -- Before the Los Angeles Kings took the ice for Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals, Dustin Brown smiled and said that since the Kings had to fly back home after the game anyway, they might as well bring the Cup with them on the long flight.

Although the trophy was once again in the building, for the second straight game the Kings left the ice empty-handed, destined to drink out of regular cups instead of a silver chalice on their flight to L.A. on Saturday night.

Jim O'Connor/US Presswire
Since taking a 3-0 series lead against the New Jersey Devils and being in position to win the Cup, the Kings have failed to take the lead in each of the past two games.

"We want the Cup!" has become a rallying cry around Los Angeles over the past couple of weeks, but maybe the Kings need to forget about the trophy they are playing for. Ever since the Stanley Cup has arrived at the arena they are playing in, they have seemingly crumbled in its presence. Since taking a 3-0 series lead against the New Jersey Devils and being in position to win the Cup, the Kings have failed to take the lead in each of the past two games. Suddenly this team’s mystique is beginning to fade as quickly as its lead in this series.

For the first time in more than two months, the Kings returned to a visiting locker room and took off their white uniforms in defeat. It was a feeling so foreign to most players, they didn’t quite know how to react.

Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick got defensive when a reporter said this was the first time this postseason that the Kings had been tested or faced adversity.

“I thought we were tested pretty hard in the first, second and third rounds,” he said. “Just because we were able to come out on top it doesn’t mean we weren’t tested. If you don’t think we were tested in those series, you should be covering a different sport.”

Well, it was the first time the Kings had dropped a road playoff game in nearly 14 months. The Kings have won an NHL playoff-record 10 straight road games this year, and 12 straight dating back to their first-round series against San Jose last year. They had always responded to a loss with a win, until now.

So now the question is how the Kings will respond to their first back-to-back losing streak of these playoffs, in the first Game 6 they will have to play after closing out each of their previous three series in four or five games.

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Kings looking to bounce back in Game 5 vs. Devils

June, 9, 2012

Stanley Cup finals

Game 5 (Kings lead the series, 3-1)

Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Prudential Center, 5 p.m. PT

Five storylines to track:

1. Not this time -- The Kings finally came up on the wrong side of a nail-biter this postseason. Heading into Game 4 of this series Wednesday night at Staples Center, they were 6-0 in playoff games decided by one goal, including all four that ventured into overtime. Game 4 was still tied with 4 minutes remaining in the third period, but Adam Henrique scored on a rush and New Jersey sealed the 3-1 victory with an empty-netter in the final seconds. Is that a sign the magic has finally worn off for the Kings? Game 5 should provide an immediate answer to that question.

2. Kings of the road -- L.A. is 10-0 on the road this postseason, a streak that seems a lot more important to the media than the coaches and players. “The only time I think about it is when you bring it up,” coach Darryl Sutter repeated Saturday morning following the team’s morning skate. Except for the second round, when the Kings swept the St. Louis Blues, they’ve followed the same pattern. Win the first two games on the road, split the next two at home and then clinch the series back on the road in Game 5. The Kings may not be mindful of their road record, but the Devils surely are.

3. Put it on ice -- Sutter reminded the gathering of reporters that Saturday was Farmer’s Day in his home province of Alberta. “A big picnic with coolers,” he said. Winning a fourth game against the Devils surely won’t be a picnic. The victory in Game 4 provided New Jersey an ounce of momentum and demonstrated that Kings goalie Jonathan Quick is human after all. For the first time in the series, the Devils actually put a shot past Quick that wasn’t redirected at some point en route to the net. Quick is still the most consistent player for either team, limiting the Devils to two goals or less in all four games.

4. Brown needs to rebound -- Kings captain Dustin Brown doesn’t need anyone to remind him that he hasn’t had much of an impact in the finals. He had at least five points in each of the first three rounds, but has just one assist through the first four games of this series. Brown said the Devils have done a solid job taking away his time and space, a strategy made somewhat easier because he’s playing on his off-wing. “I’ve been pretty quiet in the finals so far and it’s up to our big players to step up at big times,” he said after practice Friday.

5. Devils are due -- After meandering for five straight games without a power-play goal, the Kings broke through with three in the last two games. Now it’s the Devils who are stuck in the mud with the man advantage. They netted 12 power-play goals in their first 18 playoff games but have been shut out thus far in this series. They haven’t gone five straight games without scoring on the power play since November. If the Kings can win the battle of special teams again in Game 5, they have a good chance of wrapping up their first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

Secret to good power play? There's no secret

June, 8, 2012

NEWARK, N.J. -- Except for some better results, not much has changed on the power play the last two games.

The Los Angeles Kings combined for three goals on six man-advantage opportunities in Games 3 and 4 of the Stanley Cup finals, as many as they scored in the previous 14 playoff games.

The Kings split the last two meetings with the New Jersey Devils at Staples Center, leaving them with a 3-games-to-1 series edge heading into Game 5 on Saturday night at Prudential Center. Another win and L.A. will clinch its first Stanley Cup title in franchise history.

Justin Williams, who scored a power-play goal late in Game 3, said a variety of factors have accounted for the unit’s recent surge in production.

“There’s no secret to a good power play,” he said. “Shots, screens, tips, rebounds. It’s all of those things. An extra effort on a goal, getting in front of the goalie, just out-battling the four guys with one of your five out there.”

The Kings didn’t have a power play in Game 3 until the third period, when they were protecting a 2-0 lead. That gave the coaching staff reason to tinker with their personnel, keeping the first and second lines together with two defensemen, rather than their normal set of a fourth forward stationed at the blue line alongside a single defenseman.

L.A. scored on both man-advantage situations to finish off the 4-0 victory.

Dustin Brown wasn’t sure if the change in personnel helped spur the power play in Game 3, but “you’re more comfortable playing with your line,” he said.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter said the decision to go with line combinations in Game 3, rather than his usual power-play combinations, was purely strategy and not a result of the team’s lack of production with the man advantage.

“It’s more time and score and those sorts of things,” he said.

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Kings practice day before Game 5 in New Jersey

June, 8, 2012
Los Angeles Kings coach Darryl Sutter was the first one on the ice Friday afternoon at Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. The Kings will meet the New Jersey Devils in Game 5 on Saturday night, with a chance to close out the series and win their first Stanley Cup in franchise history. Here's a look at the coach and players as they report to work.

Dustin Brown and head coach Darryl Sutter discuss Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Devils.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn't take kindly to a question about the Kings' struggles in Game 4s this season.

Simon Gagne steps in, feels comfortable

June, 4, 2012
Simon GagneHarry How/Getty ImagesSimon Gagne's return to the Kings was meaningful, as he hadn't played a game for L.A. since suffering a concussion on Dec. 26.

LOS ANGELES -- Though they've rarely trailed in their march to within one victory of their first Stanley Cup title, the Los Angeles Kings notched their greatest comeback of the postseason Monday night.

Simon Gagne played his first game for the Kings since Dec. 26, the day he suffered the latest concussion in his 12-year-career. His contributions were minimal in the 4-0 victory in Game 3 against the New Jersey Devils, but considerably meaningful.

“I worked hard to get back and play,” he said after the game. “I was not sure if I was going to play and just get back on the ice.”

Gagne is believed to have suffered three concussions in a five-month span as a member of the Philadelphia Flyers during the 2007-08 season. While playing for the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, he missed parts of the playoffs because of another head injury.

On each occasion, he rushed himself back into the lineup. After he was injured the day after Christmas on a seemingly mild collision against the Phoenix Coyotes, he decided it was time to step back and let his brain completely heal.

“I was maybe 95 percent two months ago, but it was not good enough for me and the doctor and the team,” he said. “Maybe in the past, 95 percent, I was going to go back and play, and you never know what’s going to happen after that.”

Gagne didn’t begin practicing with the team until late May, and even then coach Darryl Sutter downplayed any chance of Gagne returning. Then after Game 2's victory Saturday night in New Jersey, Sutter tapped him on the shoulder and told him to get ready.

“After that, I didn’t talk to him until [Monday] morning,” Gagne said. “This morning, he said, 'Are you good to go?' And I said, 'Yeah, sure.' "

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Rapid Reaction: Game 3: Kings 4, Devils 0

June, 4, 2012
Stanley Cup Final

Game 3 (Kings lead the series, 3-0)

Los Angeles Kings 4, New Jersey Devils 0

The good: Barring a historic comeback in this series, the Kings are well on their way to their first Stanley Cup title. They reached this point with perhaps their best all-around performance of the playoffs, getting a superb effort from their penalty-kill unit, another strong game from goalie Jonathan Quick and a pair of goals in the second and third periods.

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez put the Kings on the board first for the third time in this series, pouncing on Dwight King’s leftovers to notch his first career playoff goal. King shot the puck at New Jersey goalie Martin Brodeur from the right circle, hitting him in the chest. King was right there for the rebound, shooting it off Brodeur’s right pad and getting in a couple more whacks before Martinez raced into the play and shoved it across the goal line. Brodeur thought the play should have been called dead, but he had no clue where to find the puck during the scramble. Martinez is the 17th member of the Kings to score a goal in this postseason.

While the first goal was a result of persistence and hard work, the second was pure skill. Justin Williams collected a stretch pass that banked off the boards and left it for a trailing Dustin Brown. He looked to his left and spotted Anze Kopitar with a step on the defense and skipped a pass in his direction. Kopitar took a swipe at the airborne puck and put it high in the net for a 2-0 lead with 4:53 left in the second period. It was the first two-goal lead for the Kings since Game 2 of the Western Conference finals.

After six straight power plays by the Devils, the Kings finally got one of their own and showed New Jersey how it’s done. Willie Mitchell took a page out of Quick’s book and snagged a clearing pass with his glove at the blue line, set it down and the Kings resumed their attack. Mike Richards took the puck down low and then passed it out to his good buddy and roommate Jeff Carter just to the right of Brodeur. He put the rubber up high in the net for a 3-0 lead 4:15 into the third.

Just more than a minute later, the Kings went back on the power play. This time it was Williams jumping on his own rebound and putting it past Brodeur for their fourth goal in 20 shots.

The penalty kill was again outstanding for the Kings. They snuffed out all six man-advantage situations for New Jersey, including a five-on-three situation that lasted 60 seconds late in the first period. Kings defenseman Matt Greene came through with two blocks on Ilya Kovalchuk and Quick made pinball-lever save with his right pad to rob Zach Parise, who had received a pass on the far post.

The bad: Nothing to see here, folks. Move along.

The in between: Sidelined since Dec. 26 because of a concussion, Kings left wing Simon Gagne made his first appearance of the postseason, taking the fourth-line spot of Brad Richardson. He finished with 11 shifts, 6:39 of ice time and three shots on goal. The Kings were hoping Gagne would breathe some life into the power play, but the Kings spent most of the first two periods killing penalties. Still, the Kings played their best game of the series and possibly the playoffs with Gagne in the lineup, so look for coach Darryl Sutter to stick with that lineup in Game 4 on Wednesday.

Kings looking for familiar 3-0 series lead

June, 3, 2012

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.”

Different surroundings

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."
Darryl Sutter, Jeff Carter, and Drew Doughty discuss the Kings' 10th straight road win this postseason and Carter's overtime game-winning goal.