|ESPN.com: NHL Playoffs 2014||[Print without images]|
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- There's no question that what has been an inspiring tale so far this postseason for the never-say-die Los Angeles Kings has some parallels to the team's magical run to the 2012 Stanley Cup.
Their current five-game win streak has already produced enough drama for an entire playoff year, with the Kings erasing a 3-0 series deficit in the opening round versus the San Jose Sharks and then forcing overtime with seven seconds left in regulation in Game 1 against the Anaheim Ducks before winning it in the extra session. Game 2 goes Monday night at Honda Center.
The series-opening victory came at a price, though, with defenseman Robyn Regehr leaving midway through the first period with an undisclosed injury. Coach Darryl Sutter did not divulge any new information on the matter Sunday.
"Nope. I'm not talking anything about injuries, ever,'' Sutter said. "It's not something you should have to talk about publicly, it's to protect the player and not give the other team the advantage.''
Regehr joins fellow veteran blueliner Willie Mitchell on the sidelines, the latter injured in Game 6 against the Sharks. No details have been offered on either player in terms of a timeline for their absence.
"Not going to go anywhere with Regehr or Mitchell," said Sutter. "It does me no good to talk about our injured players, just helps the other team."
What we do know is that Regehr and Mitchell are injured -- two-thirds of the left side of L.A.'s defensive corps -- two playoff-savvy veterans who are hard to replace. And that void represents the most obvious difference between this Kings team and the 2012 champs.
Amazingly, Los Angeles used the same six defensemen during their 20-game run to glory in 2012, avoiding a single injury and throwing out the same three pairs night after night. That's certainly not going to be the case this spring, which means the Kings have adversity to overcome if there's another deep playoff run in their near future.
"It's not so much that they've lost high, high-end defensemen, it's what they're putting in,'' an NHL head coach from a Western Conference team told ESPN.com on Sunday. "Matt Greene is limited. And whether it's Jeff Schultz or Andrew Campbell going in, either way, they don't trust those guys as much. Where the biggest disadvantage comes for L.A. is that Anaheim will continue to play four lines. So over time it will be become taxing to the Kings' top guys.
|The Kings hope to avoid weighing Drew Doughty down with heavier minutes.|
Sutter said Sunday the fact that the Kings dealt with long-term injuries last year -- including to Mitchell and Greene -- got his group used to finding other ways to get the job done.
"We've dealt with it," said Sutter. "Injuries are a big part of it. If you use it as an excuse, and I've heard it used as an excuse, it's just another reason to take the wrong road."
Greene replaced the injured Mitchell in the lineup two games ago, while it appears Schultz will check in for Regehr.
"Exciting time," Schultz said Sunday. "Worked hard all year. Didn't think this day was going to come. But I have an opportunity to help the team win.''
Schultz spent the whole season with Manchester in the AHL, but he has 29 NHL playoff games under his belt from his days with the Washington Capitals. Schultz and Sutter spoke Sunday morning.
"I had a little chat with him this morning and he said, 'Just go out there and play,''' said Schultz, 28. "It's hard to replace a guy like Robyn. But I feel like I'm capable of doing a similar job of what he can do.''
The Kings need Greene and Schultz to plug away and give them decent minutes, not just to have a chance against Anaheim, but also to avoid Doughty, Voynov, Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez being overtaxed if the Kings advance deep into the playoffs.
Remember how run-down star Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara looked during last year's Cup finals? You don't want that to be the case for Doughty if the Kings get that far. Keep in mind that the Sharks made it a point to hammer away at Doughty in the first round, and he was the Kings player who took the most hits over those seven games. Those hits add up.
One positive development for the Kings this season has been the improved play of Martinez, who had a huge post-Olympic showing and has continued that strong play in the postseason, opening the scoring Saturday night. Martinez can handle more minutes and he will be given that opportunity. Heck, he can even stop pucks. His save on Corey Perry in overtime Saturday night prevented what looked to be a sure goal and a Ducks victory.
"I guess I channeled my inner goalie playing in the driveway when I was younger," said Martinez, who grew up in Michigan. "I just tried to get in front of it. I knew [Johnathan] Quick had just made a save and was trying to get over, so I just tried to get down and get front of it.''
You can bet the clip was shown when the team had their film session Sunday morning.
"Actually, Darryl gave me a hard time," smiled Martinez. "He said that my rebound control wasn't very good. I told Billy Ranford, our goalie coach, that we should probably go over it today. Darryl told me I either have to kick the rebound out wide, not up the middle, or at least cover it and get a whistle. I guess I'll work on that next time.''
Until Mitchell and/or Regehr are options for the Kings, Martinez can count on his ice time to climb. There's going to be more pressure on L.A.'s top remaining blueliners to carry the mail. It's a different script than 2012, but the Kings seem intent on finding ways to win this spring.