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Friday, May 2, 2014
Frequent fliers happy for a break

By Pierre LeBrun
ESPN.com

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- To suggest that Teemu Selanne is a nervous flier would be an understatement.

"I don't mind flying when the weather is OK," the future Hall of Famer explained Friday. "But you know, we just take off so many times during the year when the weather is so crappy, it feels so stupid to go and take off. I wish we could do something for that."

If the ride is bumpy, Selanne heads up front.

"Sometimes I go to the cockpit, they always explain things to me and after that I feel safer," Selanne said. "If we go through a storm, I'll go sit with them sometimes. It's more stable at the front. I think for me it's just about control, you don't have control."

Hence, easily the happiest player in the Kings-Ducks second-round playoff series when it comes to the absence of airplanes is assuredly the Finnish Flash.

"Absolutely," Selanne said on the eve of Game 1. "Especially as long as the season is, the traveling on the West Coast, it's very hard.

"For the West Coast teams, we travel so much during the year. Now we have a series where you don't have to use a plane, it's an advantage. A little bus ride. It's going to be fun."

Anze Kopitar
Players from both Los Angeles and Anaheim are excited about the break from flying during their playoff series.

In the bigger picture, there could certainly be a benefit for whichever team moves on to the conference finals. Traditionally over the years, the team coming out of the Western Conference travels so many more miles than the Eastern club, adding a taxing element to its playoff run.

"We're grateful," Ducks head coach Bruce Boudreau said Friday. "Because the travel is so much worse [in the West]. When I first got here, or after the first year, I said the West should start with 10 points, because their travel is so much more than the East.

"But I think, for the wear and tear on the bodies, it's really cool that we're 45 minutes apart, and it should benefit both teams."

At the end of the day, it represents more down time for the players, which is obviously welcomed.

"We're still going down and staying in a hotel, but we don't have to leave early in the morning like you would if we were going to play St. Louis like we did last year for example," Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr said Friday at the team's practice facility in El Segundo. "That would take almost the whole day up with travel. This is going to be nice."

Said Ducks goalie Jonas Hiller: "It almost feels like the Eastern Conference because we can bus to the games. It's nice, especially compared to last year with playing Detroit and the time change and all the flying. That should definitely help, but both teams will have that advantage. It will be nice to not spend all that time stuck on planes."

In fact, Hiller said, it reminds him of how it is back home in the Swiss League.

"Definitely, back home nobody flies in Switzerland," said Hiller. "Our longest bus ride was five hours and we were in our own bed every night."

The Kings and Ducks won't quite be sleeping in their own beds every single night, although both clubs are taking slightly different approaches to the logistics involved in this unique series:

• The Kings will mainly use their practice facility in El Segundo as their home base for the series. They will check into an Anaheim hotel on the eve of away games and go through a normal game-day routine, including morning skate at Honda Center, however they will bus back home after each game. Between Games 1 and 2, the Kings will practice in El Segundo on Sunday before checking back into an Anaheim hotel Sunday evening, the eve of Game 2.

• The Ducks don't plan to come home between Games 3 and 4 at Staples Center as long as the arena is available for the off-day practice on May 9. That wasn't quite clear yet on Friday. Boudreau wants his players to have a road feel to those two games in L.A., so the Ducks hope to stay put in L.A. Or at least that was the plan as of Friday.

"To be quite honest, what's the difference between driving to Staples Center and driving to Honda Center from where we all live? No difference," said Kings coach Darryl Sutter on Friday.

Either way, it's pretty much a dream come true for every player involved in the series.

"To get the opportunity not to fly, and not worry about that aspect, that's just awesome," said veteran blueliner Bryan Allen.

The only downside?

"Way more ticket requests," Hiller smiled Friday.

Because it's like having seven home games, players on both teams are suddenly hearing from friends they haven't heard from in years wanting tickets.

One Ducks official said once the SoCal series was official after L.A.'s Game 7 win in San Jose, ticket requests came flooding in.

Of course, that's also because it's the first time both teams have played each other in the playoffs.

"Southern California has been waiting for this matchup for a long, long time," said Selanne, 43. "Finally it's here. I think everybody is really excited.

"The rivalry has always been there but we all knew that it needed one playoff series, we needed to play against each other, and then it will be at another level," added Selanne, playing in his 21st and final NHL season. "There's a lot of competition in the market place, off the ice, too. For the marketing of both teams, this is time to take advantage of this."

Allen said the buzz for this series is real.

"It's pretty neat. For an area that's not hockey-crazed, it's becoming hockey-crazed," said Allen. "Taking my kids to school and people are talking about hockey and they haven't all year. It's cool to see and it's great for the area."