The Kings have a magic number of 19 for clinching a playoff spot, and it's worth mentioning because in the past few seasons the only number relevant to them in March was tied to their elimination.
Any combination of 19 points earned by the Kings or NOT earned by the ninth-place Calgary Flames will assure the Kings their first playoff berth since the 2001-02 season. Calgary, with 13 games left, has a maximum of 103 points; the Kings, who next face Chicago at Staples Center on Thursday, have 85 points. Nineteen would give them 104 and put them beyond the Flames' reach.
Coach Terry Murray said the only number that concerned him is two — the number of points he hopes his team will earn on Thursday after losing to Nashville, 3-2, at home on Sunday.
"I don't look at the standings every day. I do look at them," he said Tuesday after a lengthy practice at El Segundo.
"I'm not, ‘This is the first thing I do in the morning is get on the computer and look at the standings in the Western Conference.' I'm focused on the game. We've got to bounce back from a loss we had against Nashville and did not play well, to a game that's going to be a very intense game against Chicago. They're one of the premier teams in the game and we have to get ourselves back on pace and back on track again to play the game the right way."
He focused Tuesday on positioning. "The stuff that we've done very well and all the execution that we have to continue to do to perform as a good team," he said. "We get into the individual or get too stretched out, good things do not happen."
The Kings are merely 3-3-1 since the Olympic break and have had some defensive lapses. Murray said he has seen the team be "a little anxious to get on the attack," and said the level of play isn't where it should be.
"I think the Olympics had an effect on players. You come back from those and you're pretty pumped. A lot of emotion and adrenaline. There is a physical toll, a mental toll and I think we showed at different times in recent games, that's part of it," he said.
"And we're figuring out how to play at this time of the year. That's the other thing that is new and different. And it's demanding and it's fun. It's fun from the coaching side of it to have high expectations and keep pushing the players, and it's really exciting to see the players and the team when we do hit our stride at different times, even if it is a period in a game, to say, ‘OK, there's the stuff we've got to go to.' That's the playoff attitude that we need to show at this time. Before you get to the playoffs. This is the way it has to be because this is a very demanding stretch of games."
In practice Tuesday Brad Richardson again played center, as he did late in Sunday's loss to Nashville. Richardson had Alexander Frolov on the left and Dustin Brown on the right; Jarret Stoll was centering the fourth line, which had Richard Clune and Jeff Halpern on the wings.
Murray, never hesitant to move players around, said he'd leave the Ryan Smyth-Anze Kopitar- Justin Williams line intact while Williams regains his timing after missing more than two months because of a broken ankle.
Murray praised Richardson's speed and tenacity, which were adopted by his linemates.
"He was on top of the puck. He was creating some turnovers. So I stayed with that the rest of the game. And I liked it," Murray said. "I liked the way they kind of picked up their tempo, their intensity and pushed the comfort level of their defensemen a little to create those turnovers and make some plays in the offensive zone.
"We'll stay with it for another couple of days and see how it goes."
The Stork has left the building
Defenseman/forward Peter Harrold and his wife, Casey, welcomed their first child early Tuesday. Lincoln James Harrold weighed in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces and was 21 inches long. He has a playground pal in goaltender Jonathan Quick's daughter Madison, who was born Friday morning.
"Congratulations to him," Murray said of Harrold, who was excused from Tuesday's practice. "I think that's it. That is out of the way and we can get back to thinking about our game. That's exciting. Everything went good."
Quick said his wife, Jaclyn, and daughter have come home from the hospital and that he actually got eight or nine hours of sleep Monday night. "Not at one time," he said.
Goaltender Erik Ersberg, snubbed in favor of Jonathan Bernier last week when Quick left the team for his baby's birth, acknowledged that being passed over was "tough," but otherwise declined to comment. Ersberg's contract runs through next season but he's likely to be squeezed out.
Hockey teams representing the Fire Department of New York and the L.A. County Fire Department will play a charity game at Staples Center on Saturday after the Kings play the New York Islanders. A portion of ticket sales from the event and proceeds from a silent auction that night will benefit the Children's Burn Foundation and the Triple Negative Breast Cancer Foundation.