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For the Kings, it could be a long road to the playoffs

KINGS FYI

L.A. is vying for a postseason spot but begins a stretch of 10 games away from home, which might prove troublesome because they have one of the worst road records in the NHL.

January 31, 2011|By Kevin Baxter
  • Backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier will get the start Tuesday night against the Wild when the Kings begin a 10-game trip.
Backup goaltender Jonathan Bernier will get the start Tuesday night against… (Kirby Lee / US Presswire )

Reporting from St. Paul, Minn. — A point out of a playoff berth entering the NHL's four-day All-Star break, the Kings return to the ice Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild to begin a 10-game stretch that could make or break their season.

Problem is all 10 of those games will be on the road, where the Kings have one of the worst records in the league. It has been a remarkable slide for a team that led the NHL with 24 road victories last season. And Coach Terry Murray said the Kings, who are on a three-game winning streak, will have to recapture that magic or risk falling out of playoff contention by the end of the month.

"We all have to look back at what happened and how we did and how we played through those road trips in the past," Murray said after the team's 45-minute practice Monday. "That's the mentality that we're all going to take."

With Staples Center scheduled to play host to the Grammy Awards and the NBA's All-Star extravaganza on consecutive weekends, the Kings won't be back on their home ice until Feb. 24. But Murray said the reason for the exodus isn't nearly as important as how the team deals with it.

"We know how to play. We know what we have to do," Murray said. "And we've got to draw on last year's successes and just hope that we can get off to a good start and build on it through the rest of the trip."

Treated like a King

As the only King invited to the All-Star game in Raleigh, N.C., Anze Kopitar had to take commercial flights to and from the game as opposed to the charters to which NHL players are accustomed.

"That's OK," said Kopitar, who scored two goals in Sunday's game. "They bump me up to first class. They treat me well."

Well, sort of.

The winter storm that ravaged the middle of the country Monday delayed his arrival in Minnesota by more than three hours, forcing him to bide his time in a crowded airport terminal. But then punctuality wasn't nearly as important to Kopitar as how the airline treated the souvenirs he packed in his luggage: a jersey and a hockey stick signed by his fellow All-Stars.

Slap shots

The Kings come out of the short break with games on consecutive nights, so Murray will rest regular goalie Jonathan Quick against the Wild in favor of Jonathan Bernier, who has won only once since Dec. 27. No other lineup changes are expected. … Injured winger Marco Sturm flew with the team to Minnesota, where he practiced for the first time in nearly two weeks. Sturm, who went on the injured-reserved list because of tendinitis in his left knee, last played Jan. 18.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

 

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