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Win or done, Los Angeles Kings must break road pattern

Kings' Justin Williams says the team is 'certainly not scared' of the three-games-to-one deficit, although they have rarely won on the road in these playoffs.

June 07, 2013|By Lisa Dillman
  • The Kings are 1-7 on the road during this postseason, but down 3-1 to the Blackhawks, Justin Williams says the team isn't scared, they just need to win two games at the United Center.
The Kings are 1-7 on the road during this postseason, but down 3-1 to the Blackhawks,… (Jeff Gross / Getty Images )

CHICAGO — The Kings used to win road games, and not just by the score of 2-1 or 3-2.

Really.

In fact, one was here in Chicago at the United Center on March 25 in the regular season and they scored five goals, the last time they recorded such an impressive output.

That win in Chicago was two days after the Kings suffered a loss at home against Vancouver. Then for 75 days the Kings were unbeatable at home until Thursday night, when they weren't anymore.

Now the show moves to the road where they've found it nearly impossible to win during the playoffs. Maybe that will change too.

The one truth about these home/road streaks is that they all eventually come to an end.

The Kings' season is on the line as the defending Stanley Cup champions face a 3-1 series deficit with Game 5 of the Western Conference finals Saturday. They are 1-10 in franchise history when trailing 3-1 in the playoffs, and the lone comeback came via Wayne Gretzky and friends in 1989 against the Edmonton Oilers in the first round.

The Kings, 1-7 on the road in these playoffs, can perhaps find solace in the fact that last year they set an NHL record with 10 consecutive road wins.

"It hasn't gone our way on the road, obviously," forward Justin Williams told reporters at the Kings' media session Friday in Chicago. "But now we need to win two in the United Center. We're not scared of it. We're certainly not scared of it. We're going to welcome a challenge to beat the best team in the league this year in their own house starting tomorrow."

The Kings most likely will have to mount their comeback without center Mike Richards. He missed the last three games because of a concussion suffered late in Game 1, and was the Kings' leading scorer in the playoffs at the time of the injury.

Richards has done some light skating — the team was not on the ice Friday — and attended the Kings' last two games, in the press box for the latter. His presence at Staples Center was a positive development because often individuals suffering from severe concussion symptoms are sensitive to lights and noise and are advised to steer clear of those situations.

He said he was feeling fine, but Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said it was "really doubtful at best" that Richards would be in the lineup for Game 5.

Chicago will get a boost from the return of its top defenseman, Duncan Keith, who missed Game 4 because of a one-game suspension for high-sticking Kings center Jeff Carter in the face.

"He's been one of the best D men in the league," said Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson.

Sutter had thought that the Blackhawks would adapt to Keith's loss, spreading the minutes around judiciously.

"When Duncan was suspended, it really doesn't hurt their team," Sutter said. "He's a great player, but it doesn't really hurt their team because the way their team is set up, they just add five minutes on the four other defensemen."

Chicago managed to put a tight grip on the series without Keith and despite a shaky outing in the early going by his replacement, Sheldon Brookbank, who was on the ice for both Kings goals. But both sides realize how quickly that grip can change.

Comebacks from a 3-1 series deficit, while difficult, happen more regularly these days in the NHL. Boston did it to Toronto this spring, and the Blackhawks pulled it off against the Detroit Red Wings in the previous round.

"We had that in the other series, and that's when we kind of woke up," Blackhawks defenseman Johnny Oduya said.

Said Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr: "It's a situation — you don't have to look very far. You look at the opponent that we're playing. They were in the exact same situation, and they came out of it in the last round.

"It's something that's very doable. We're preparing to win one game tomorrow, and that's as far as we're looking right now."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

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