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Posted On Monday, 05.21.2012 / 5:10 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings in familiar position with Game 5 looming

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Been there, done that?

Well, the Los Angeles Kings have been to Vancouver and done this -- go on the road with a 3-1 series lead and clinch. Now they are in the exact same position, needing to win on the road to eliminate the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 5 of the Western Conference Finals on Tuesday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

The Vancouver Canucks got a boost from the return of Daniel Sedin in Game 4 to force the quarterfinals to shift back to Vancouver. In this series, Phoenix got something extra from the returns of Martin Hanzal and Adrian Aucoin to move the finals back to Glendale, Ariz.

Justin Williams said after Game 4 that the Kings have to take the same approach as the Vancouver series. Team captain Dustin Brown concurred that this has the same feel.

"We've worked really hard to give ourselves this advantage early in the series and we let an opportunity slip by not capitalizing and being on home ice," Brown said. "Now it's up to guys to rally their own game and rally collectively to go into Phoenix with that attitude that we're coming out of there with a win."

This is the first sign of a setback the Kings have faced since the Vancouver series. In Game 4 of the conference finals they fell into a two-goal deficit for the first time since Game 4 of the quarterfinals; they recovered from that loss with a club record eight-game playoff winning streak that was snapped in Game 4 against the Coyotes.

"I think this team has handled adversity pretty well, considering the type of year we had," Brown said. "This time of year it's about sticking together. We lost one game, so it's a matter of rebounding."

A rebound win would make history. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, a win would make the Kings the first team to go unbeaten on the road en route to the Stanley Cup Final under the current playoff format.

Kings coach Darryl Sutter consistently downplays his team's road success and has done a tremendous job of impressing that on his players. Asked about their confidence on the road, Sutter said, "Try to win the next game. It could be in Tucson or Toledo or Los Angeles. To me, that has no bearing on anything."
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 6:55 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

L.A. preparing for wild sports Sunday

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Earlier in the season, Drew Doughty and Mike Richards probably wouldn't have garnered much recognition or cheers by showing up at a Los Angeles Lakers game. But this is no ordinary time to be a sports fan in Los Angeles.

The two were shown on the big screen Friday night for the Lakers-Oklahoma City playoff game and the basketball fans gave the Staples Center co-tenants a proper acknowledgment. While the Kings are playing this deep into spring for the first time in 19 years, the Lakers and Los Angeles Clippers are also in the playoffs in an unprecedented smash-up of local sports on Sunday.

"I think it's great for the city," Rob Scuderi said. "Especially the Kings and the Lakers have been very successful … but for the Kings, it's been kind of a long drought as far as the postseason goes and postseason success. It's fun to see the city kind of rally around it and get into it. It's something that doesn't happen very often. Hopefully all three teams can go even farther."
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Posted On Saturday, 05.19.2012 / 4:52 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Fraser returns after son's medical scare

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Colin Fraser is back with the Los Angeles Kings and ready to play after a medical scare with his son removed him from hockey for a precarious few days.

Colin Fraser
Center - LAK
GOALS: 0 | ASST: 0 | PTS: 0
SOG: 8 | +/-: -1
Fraser said Saturday morning that his 19-month-old son, Calder, was hospitalized when the Kings were in Glendale, Ariz.  He immediately returned to his summer home in Sylvan Lake, Alberta, to be with his family and he missed Games 2 and 3 of the Western Conference Finals.

Fraser said "everyone's healthy and I'm back and ready to play." He was simply happy to return to normalcy.

"At first, I didn't know what to do and I said, 'Forget it, I'm going home,'" Fraser said. "Obviously, I want to play and I want to be here and this is obviously something special. But at the end of the day, family comes first, and family is 100 percent, No.1. Hockey is going to come and go, but my family I'll have forever, so it was a no-brainer for me. 
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Posted On Friday, 05.18.2012 / 7:36 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings not focused on officiating

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Perhaps it was steam blown off by a frustrated coach. Maybe Dave Tippett was trying to deflect attention from the three games to none series deficit his Phoenix Coyotes team is facing in the Western Conference Finals.

Whatever the case, the Los Angeles Kings aren't taking the bait.

Tippett after Game 3 on Thursday criticized the officiating during the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a perceived failure to monitor "embellishment by players." It was meant to be a general statement about the postseason, but the Kings were naturally implicated.
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 3:04 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Clifford staying in lineup

LOS ANGELES -- Kyle Clifford will stay in the lineup for the Los Angeles Kings for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday at Staples Center ( 9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

Colin Fraser remained in Canada for a family matter, although he was expected to return in the afternoon, Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. However, he said Clifford will play.

Clifford didn't know he would play in Game 2 until a few hours before the game. He said it wasn't too much of an adjustment even though he had not played since Game 1 of the first round, April 11.

"Definitely the emotions were there, so it was fun," Clifford said.

Clifford will play left wing on the fourth line again, with Brad Richardson at center and rookie Jordan Nolan on the right side when L.A. attempts to take a 3-0 series lead on the Phoenix Coyotes.

"I think your adrenaline carries you most of the way," Clifford said. "We're a high-energy line so we've just got to get pucks in, finish checks and keep it simple."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.17.2012 / 2:58 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Day off has Kings' Brown feeling fine for Game 3

LOS ANGELES -- Dustin Brown was intact and seemingly ready to go for Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals on Thursday (9 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS) at the Kings' morning skate.

The Los Angeles Kings captain probably was the most appreciative of the day off between Games 2 and 3 after he was the recipient of a slash from Phoenix Coyotes goaltender Mike Smith and a boarding penalty from Martin Hanzal that earned the Coyotes center a one-game suspension.

What hurt more?

"Probably the hit," Brown said. "The slash, my leg went numb. … You're used to getting slashed every day.

"Going into intermission, my foot was sleeping, maybe a little numb. When I came out for the third, I had pretty much full feeling in my leg."

Hanzal boarded Brown when Brown chased his own chip to the end boards in the third period of Game 2. Brown stayed in the game, and if he was hurt, he is showing no effects from it.

"I got my arms up, so that's probably the best scenario considering the play," Brown said.

That Brown was not hurt factored into the one-game suspension levied by the NHL Player Safety Department. Also, Hanzal does not have a history of over-the-line play.

"I know these games are probably worth more," Brown said. "I thought he was going to get two [games]. But it's not an easy decision to make considering we're in the Western finals. As a player, you don't really worry about length. I guess the media really likes talking about the state of the game right now. Right now they've got one of their top centers out and we've got to be ready to go."

Brown sounded more irked at the diving penalty he was given on the full-swing slash by Smith.

"Quite surprised, I guess," Brown said. "I don't really understand it. It came down from over his head. I'm not sure. I still don't understand it. Most refs haven't been slashed on the back of the leg, either."

Kings coach Darryl Sutter only said of the suspension, "That's what the League valued it as. I'm thankful [Brown] didn't get hurt."
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Posted On Wednesday, 05.16.2012 / 6:16 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings' Fraser could miss Game 3

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It appears that Los Angeles Kings center Colin Fraser could miss another game of the Western Conference Finals.

Fraser is attending to a family matter, according to the Kings, and missed Game 2 on Tuesday. Asked about Fraser on Wednesday, coach Darryl Sutter said Fraser was "back in Alberta."

Brad Richardson moved from wing to center Kyle Clifford and Jordan Nolan. It was Clifford's first action since Game 1 of the quarterfinals, when he was hit by Byron Bitz of the Vancouver Canucks and left with a concussion.

Fraser is an integral part of the Kings' grinding fourth line, but if can't play in Game 3 on Thursday, Sutter will likely turn back to Clifford, a big physical forward with a slight scoring touch. He was a surprise standout of the playoffs last season for L.A. when he played on a line with Richardson and Wayne Simmonds.

"Quite honestly, he was the logical guy to go in for [Fraser] because he brings the same sort of thing," Sutter said. "You can't take penalties and he's got to play hard and he's got to be responsible on the right side of the puck. If he does that, he gets a chance to play."

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Posted On Friday, 05.11.2012 / 4:38 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Smith's puck-handling ability a challenge for Kings

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- One of the memorable plays from the Phoenix Coyotes' 1-0 win against the Los Angeles Kings on Feb. 16 was goaltender Mike Smith nearly scoring on the empty net with a length-of-the-ice clear in the waning seconds.

Smith is known for his deft puck-handling, and the Kings will have to limit his activity and possession time in the Western Conference Finals, which start Sunday.

"If he's going to be a third defenseman and he's going to be breaking them out of the zone all day, then we're not going to get the sustained pressure that we want," Justin Williams said.

"Certainly, the less he handles the puck the better off we are."

Smith's puck-handling can get him into trouble, too, in the form of turnovers and stray or poor clears. But it hasn't cost Smith much against L.A. He had a 1.76 goals-against average against the Kings this season, with nine goals allowed in five games.

The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Smith also presents a physical challenge as well.

"He's huge," Kings captain Dustin Brown said. "Obviously he's worked hard on his game. The one thing you can't teach is size. There are times when he makes a save, we get good traffic on him, he goes into his stance or whatever you want to call it and the puck just hits him because he's so big. That's not something you can teach. The fact that he's as big as he is, makes it even more difficult for us.

"He's pretty good at staying above, looking above guys. He goes down and probably gives more room up top. He's able to track the puck really well again, because of his size. He plays as little deeper in his net, which has its advantages and disadvantages. For a guy that big, it gives him that extra second to react to the puck. Like I said, he's on top of his game right now. It's going to be a big challenge for us."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 5:46 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Kings practice while continuing to play waiting game

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings are finding out the downside to their efficient march through the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It’s kind of like a Tom Petty song: The waiting is the hardest part.

It will have been one week from their elimination of the St. Louis Blues until the puck drops on Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Coyotes on Sunday (8 p.m. ET, NBCSN, TSN, RDS). The necessity of a seventh game between the New York Rangers and Washington Capitals on Saturday extended the time. L.A. has been back at practice for three days.

"From a player's standpoint, if we could play tomorrow, we would," captain Dustin Brown said. "Practice is one thing, a game's another, especially at this time of year. We're getting all the rest we need. But it's been a while. Not only that, these are exciting games to be a part of and we just want to keep going."

Coach Darryl Sutter is obsessed with schedule and his practice routine leading up to a series. The 5 p.m. Pacific start time for Game 1 means the Kings will likely practice in Phoenix on Saturday because Sutter won't have a morning skate on Sunday.

Sutter also thinks like a player, so he understands the challenge this week brings for him and his players.

"They're anxious," Sutter said. "It's normal, right? They're used to playing every second or third day."

L.A. is coming off an emotional Game 4 victory against St. Louis that propelled it to the conference finals for the first time since 1993. Sutter said the Kings have done well to quickly put it past them and focus on the next round.

He held an optional skate Tuesday, put them through conditioning drills Wednesday and did one-on-one drills Thursday.

"A little bit of recovery for some guys that are banged-up," Sutter said of this week. "Some of the older guys have two-and-a-half days without skating. You always wonder what that means. But quite honestly, you have communication with them and see how they feel about it. That's the most important part. So then you get back to practice and you reinforce some stuff. You reinforce Phoenix and what they've been doing differently."

Brown isn't worried about having to ramp up the energy and emotion after sitting around for a week. The Kings don’t need any more motivation at this point.

"It's one thing if we're sitting here after All-Star break, it's a little harder to get going for game whatever it is," Brown said. "We're talking Game 1 of the Western finals, so the emotion, the hard work will be there. It's a matter of knocking the rust off right -- the only way to do that is to get involved in the game."

Sutter, meanwhile, went to Dodger Stadium for the first time Wednesday night and was awed by the venerable venue.

"I'd love to go back when we're not playing because of all the history," Sutter said. "It's pretty awesome."

Sutter said he was a "huge" Chicago Cubs fan when he played for the Chicago Blackhawks.

"I like baseball and I like the history part, too," he said. "It was good to see that."
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Posted On Thursday, 05.10.2012 / 5:42 PM

By Curtis Zupke -  NHL.com Correspondent /NHL.com - Coyotes vs. Kings series blog

Richards conflicted to see Flyers get knocked out

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- Los Angeles Kings center Mike Richards was somewhat conflicted when he watched the Philadelphia Flyers get eliminated from the postseason.

A former Flyers captain, Richards remains friends with his former teammates and still thinks positively of the city even though the Flyers traded him amid rumors of his alleged partying. The good memories are of those teammates.

"You always wish them the best and you never want to go against a team, especially when you have a lot of friends down there," Richards said. "It's a city that's given me a lot, so you always hope the best for them. Obviously we have a long ways to go before we even get there, but I know for [L.A. teammate and former Flyer Jeff Carter] and me, it would be a little bit awkward if we had to back there and play in the first year back. It would have been a little bit weird."

On the other hand, Richards gets to see his former coach Peter DeBoer of the New Jersey Devils move on.

"I had him for four years in Kitchener [of the OHL] and how good a coach he is and how he got the team ready for them, and how demanding he is as a coach and how smart he is," Richards said. "I'm not surprised by that. They're obviously well-coached and they've stuck to their game plan to a tee. It's kind of fun to watch, how fast they were, and whoever plays them in the next round is going to have their hands full."
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Quote of the Day

I didn't even know how to celebrate. I threw my hands up, they gave me a hug, so I guess that's all I needed.

— Sabres forward Tim Schaller on scoring his first NHL goal Sunday against the Bruins