Winger Dustin Penner said the Kings must make Mike Smith's job tougher… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )
GLENDALE, Ariz.--Greetings from Glendale, where it’s 97 degrees and expected to climb as the day goes on. Advice from locals if you’re visiting is to stay hydrated, so be careful.
The Kings, who will have a second chance Tuesday night to win the Western Conference title and clinch a berth in the Stanley Cup finals, had a full morning skate at Jobing.com Arena. A few of their Manchester callups joined the session. Afterward, Coach Darryl Sutter greeted the media wearing a bright yellow cowboy shirt, which he bought not back home in Alberta but in Nashville.
The Kings’ mood Tuesday morning was cheerful but businesslike and players are well aware of the task at hand. They broke out more than a few clichés but at least they were apologetic about it.
“We’re just trying to stay focused one game at a time. It’s a boring cliché, but there’s nothing that’s more true,” defenseman Rob Scuderi said.
“We’ve let them back into the series a little bit. It’s 3-1 now. If you think about it, if you lose now, not that anyone panicked, but it’s just not a situation that you want to put yourself in. We’re trying to take it one game at a time. We’ve got a good chance to hopefully close things out tonight and we’re just taking it at that.”
The Kings will take a seven-game road winning streak this spring into Tuesday’s game against the Phoenix Coyotes, which tied the NHL record for consecutive road victories in one playoff year. Overall, they’ve won nine straight road playoff games, also tying an NHL playoff record for consecutive road wins over more than one playoff year.
But to Sutter, it’s not a surprise that his No. 8-seeded team has been comfortable on the road.
“You know what, we've had to be. That's a fact,” he said. “You're not a home-ice team, you've got to be. When you're a team that doesn't score many goals, you've got to be. You've got to manufacture and find different ways to do it. We found it.
“I know what the talk is, because of our road record. When you look at all the different ways the team's won, it's won by your goalie being great, or your power play, or the other team taking a bad penalty, your penalty killing, overtime. There's so many different ways to it. It's not just, ‘That's how you did it, that's how you do it.’ There's so many different ways of doing it. The biggest thing we do is, win or lose, try and play the same way. That's the most important thing.”
The one area they’d like to see a different result is on the power play. Though Sutter said he looks at the positive side and credits the power play for helping the Kings win Game 2—they scored two five-on-three goals--players know they can be more efficient than two for 23 in this series and six for 70 in the playoffs.
“Sometimes it comes down to special teams. And we certainly understand that our power play has to be better,” center Anze Kopitar said. “With saying that I think we have quite a bit of [offensive] zone time. We just can’t connect and score goals so we’ve got to work on that, simplify it a little bit and get more shots.”
Winger Dustin Penner said the Kings must make goaltender Mike Smith’s job tougher than it was on Sunday, when Smith prolonged the Coyotes’ season with a 36-save shutout at Staples Center.
“Put more traffic towards their goaltender, get the second and third opportunities,” Penner said. “Not so many one-chance-and done kind of thing.”
The Kings have allowed the Coyotes to score only one power-play goal, ending a streak of 30 killed penalties, and have killed 47 of 51 disadvantages overall. “We put a lot of work into it as far as video and preparation,” Penner said. “And the personnel we have on it understands what they need to do, what the other team is doing and how to counteract the other team’s power play. I think as a group we collectively hate to get scored on.”
The Coyotes held an optional skate at their practice facility in Scottsdale. Team captain Shane Doan said he had exchanged text messages with Danny Briere, a member of the 2010 Flyers team that rallied to win a series after losing the first three games, and came away believing a repeat of that comeback is doable.
“You want to keep it going. Really all we've talked about is just we're good enough to win one game,” Doan said. “We know that. We're good enough to win one game. That's really been our focus.”
Coach Dave Tippett said the inclusion of veteran defenseman Adrian Aucoin, who had been injured and made his series debut in Game 4, will be a game-time decision Tuesday.
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