Jonathan Quick of the Kings knocks away a shot by the Vancouver Canucks in… (Stephen Dunn / Getty Images )
A number of the Kings’ core players have never won a playoff series, but that could change Wednesday night at Staples Center.
The Kings hold a 3-0 lead over the top-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the teams' first-round series, putting Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Jonathan Quick and Drew Doughty in position to skate on the happy side of the traditional post-series handshake line for the first time in their NHL careers. It would be a significant moment for them and the executives who have guided the Kings through some landmines to reach this point, but Kopitar said after the team’s game-day skate that he’s not looking at the bigger picture just yet.
“It feels good, but at the same time we’re focused on the game tonight. You can’t really think what’s going to happen and what if,” said Kopitar, who is in his sixth season with the Kings.
“You have to focus on things that are coming up right now.
“If it does happen tonight … obviously we want it to happen. But it’s going to take a big effort from everybody in here to make that happen.”
Still, Kopitar said he can see how important getting past the first round would be for an organization that hasn’t won a playoff series since 2001 and has gone through some tough times that include a major overhaul.
“This is the first step that we want to take, for sure,” he said. “We’ve been through a lot, especially this season — talk about a roller coaster. I think that’s a perfect example of everything that happened to us.
“But we stuck with it. We’re in a pretty good position right now but it’s not done yet and we all realize that.”
Center Colin Fraser is one of four Kings whose name is etched on the Cup, an honor he earned in 2010 and shares with Dustin Penner (Ducks, 2007), Rob Scuderi (Pittsburgh, 2009) and Justin Williams (Carolina, 2006). Fraser said Wednesday morning that he didn’t expect he’d have to give any advice to those teammates who hadn’t won the Cup — or hadn’t won a playoff series.
“They’re obviously our top players for a reason. They know what it takes,” he said. “Even though they might not have won a series, they’ve certainly been our best players and are going to be. They know what to do.
“I’m just going to play my game. I’m a vocal guy as it is and nothing’s going to change.”
Fraser joined the Kings only last summer, so he hasn’t gone through the bad days that Brown and Kopitar have endured.
“If you go back six years ago they were building for the future, building for right now really. That’s what it comes down to,” he said. “They were patient. Fans were patient. Now it’s our time to win some games.”
Williams said players with more — and more successful — playoff experience can set the tone before Wednesday’s game.
“Our guys need to make sure that everybody is ready. This isn’t a game that we’re taking lightly,” he said. “This is a game that we could potentially close out one of the best teams in the league, if not the best.
“We’re certainly going to come out with a lot of emotion and not take anything for granted. We don’t have that luxury. We know they’re a team that can score, and score in bunches and potentially can come back on us and we don’t want that to happen.”
Williams also said the year he won the Cup with the Hurricanes, their first-round series “was certainly one of the hardest ones we played.” Carolina lost the first two games to Montreal but went on to win the series in six games. After that, the Hurricanes beat the New Jersey Devils in five games, the Buffalo Sabres in seven and the Edmonton Oilers in seven to win the Cup.
“Playoffs is a time when little things mean a lot and individuals step up at right times and we’ve had that so far,” he said. “We’ve had Quick. We’ve had Brownie. We’ve had some guys stand up in some big circumstances. We want to do it together as a team tonight.”
Coach Darryl Sutter plans only one lineup change, and that will be to restore Brad Richardson to the lineup nine days after Richardson underwent an emergency appendectomy. Richardson will replace Andrei Loktionov alongside Fraser and Jordan Nolan on the fourth line.
Kentucky's starters all declare for NBA draft
There's quite a buzz about Shabazz Muhammad
Man says he made up accusations against Syracuse's Bernie Fine
Several Kings on verge of a big playoff 'first'