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Experience in a playoff Game 7 is not on Kings' side

Club was never pushed that far in any series last season on its way to winning the Stanley Cup, so it is uncharted territory for virtually everyone on the roster as Kings take on San Jose on Tuesday in decisive matchup.

May 28, 2013|By Lisa Dillman

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Will it be some youngster in Gilroy or Los Gatos pretending to be the San Jose Sharks' Joe Thornton scoring the winning goal in Game 7 or a Slovenian teenager doing the Kopitar, copying a dazzling move by the Kings' Anze Kopitar to secure Game 7?

That's the never-ending wonder of a Game 7. They have a transformative-type power, turning seasoned professionals into kids again on the frozen pond.

"You get into a game like this, that's where heroes are made," Dustin Brown of the Kings said Monday.

Brown and Kopitar will get their first opportunity to play a Game 7 in the NHL on Tuesday when they face the Sharks at Staples Center in the deciding game of a Western Conference semifinal series. The Kings have won 13 straight home games. The first six games of this series have been won by the home team, an unexpected twist for the Kings, who lost only once on the road in last year's run to the Stanley Cup.

Their road woes against the Sharks were a continuation of a trend, as the Kings are 1-5 on the road in the playoffs. In fact, the Kings' struggles on the road went back to the regular season, as they won twice away from Staples Center in March and April.

""I don't know what the reason is," Kopitar said. "We're going to have to do it on the road eventually. Now, we have the chance to come home and close this series and win the series and we'll worry about road games as we go along."

It is the first time the Kings have played host to a Game 7 playoff game since 1989, and those were in the Wayne Gretzky days when they still played at the Forum, starring in front of a celebrity-laden crowd.

They beat the Edmonton Oilers, 6-3, in Game 7 that year and are 3-4 all-time in a Game 7. The Sharks are 5-2 in a Game 7, and two of their players, forward Scott Gomez and defenseman Brad Stuart, have played in a Game 7 a combined 15 times, mostly for other teams.

That is one fewer than all of the Kings combined. Defenseman Robyn Regehr has appeared in four, all from his days in Calgary.

"We've also got guys that played in a gold-medal Olympic game, which is probably the equivalent of a Game 7," Brown said. Dewey [Drew Doughty], Rick [Mike Richards] was there. Guys have experience in big games. ... It's a matter of using that experience."

The lack of experience in a Game 7 on the resumes of many of the Kings is explained, in part, by last season's dominance. In their run to the Stanley Cup, the Kings never faced the situation of an elimination game.

"For some guys in here, that having been their only successful playoff run, you can get a little spoiled with it," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "That's not how it is for most teams. At some point, whether you're playing bad or good, you can get some bad breaks or you're going to lose games.

"You're going to have to find your way back to your game."

Scuderi is 2-0 in a Game 7, both from his Pittsburgh days.

"It's a little nerve-racking, but once the game gets started you just get over it and you just play," Scuderi said. "If you're any type of a competitor, you want to be in those high-pressure situations."

Kopitar has been thinking about the big stage of a Game 7 since he was a kid growing up in Slovenia, watching his father and hero, Matjaz, lead the national team. He said his dad scored a couple of goals in regulation and in a shootout of a Game 7.

"I've got blood under my skin just like the Canadian kids," Kopitar said. "I don't think it's any different over in Europe, either. Everyone wants to be in these types of games and you want to raise the level of play and eventually you want to be the hero in these types of games."

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

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