EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – Sitting around for three days is probably not the ideal routine in a Stanley Cup Playoff series unless a team needs to get healthy.
For Los Angeles Kings forward Jeff Carter, the time is beneficial for healing his ankle and detrimental in that he’s coming off a good game and would have like to get back to playing sooner.
“I would have rather have played every other day,” Carter said Saturday before the Kings left for Vancouver for Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals on Sunday.
“But it can be good for us, I guess. We got some guys that are a little banged up – bumps and bruises or whatnot – so the extra couple days will definitely help in that way.”
A talking point at the beginning of the series, Carter and linemate Mike Richards each have no points with a minus-3 rating over the past three games.
Carter missed the last five regular season games with a bone bruise in his ankle and returned in time for the start of the series. He said the injury didn’t affect his performance.
“It’s been getting better every game, I think, so it’s not a big issue,” Carter said.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter was typically blunt when asked about what he’s seen from Carter lately.
“I think he’s playing through an injury and I think his last game was his best game,” Sutter said. “What are his strengths? His speed and puck skills. When you’re not playing quite 100 percent it does make a difference.”
Carter had a game-high seven shots on goal and four hits in Game 4. He looked as active and visible as he has in the series, and if he shows his scoring capability he will be the factor that Los Angeles wished for when they acquired him before the trade deadline.
“It was probably the best that I’ve felt in this series,” Carter said. “I was skating and getting on pucks. When you’re doing that, you’re creating chances, so it was a step in the right direction.”
Carter had six goals in 16 regular season games since he came to L.A. in a Feb.23 trade with the Columbus Blue Jackets, who got Jack Johnson and a first round draft pick in return. Outside of a two-goal game against the Anaheim Ducks on March 3, he really hasn’t had a signature game or goal of real significance.
Carter has also been quiet in recent playoffs. He is on a six-game point-less streak, dating to last postseason with Philadelphia.
Richards was also encouraged by Game 5 and knows what his former Philadelphia teammate is capable of doing.
“I talked to him after [Game 4],” Richards said. “He said he felt good. He’s said he it was the best he felt in a long time. Hopefully we can improve on it and get opportunities and chances and shots. He’s got a good enough a shot where the goalie can make the save once in a while but eventually it’s going to go in.”
Mitchell on Vancouver: Defenseman Willie Mitchell is a knowledgeable source on how to defend the Canucks and he has served as a sort of analyst during the series.
Mitchell played four seasons with Vancouver and against them in the Northwest Division when he was with the Minnesota Wild. He had a detailed take on defending a “new” Canucks team with Daniel and Henrik Sedin.
“Everyone has their own way or own belief of how you play them,” Mitchell said. “Personally, I think you deny them the puck, so that means when other players on their team have the puck, you make sure they don’t get it. So [it’s] meeting them before the puck gets there. If they get the puck, it’s not about eliminating time and space, in my opinion, because if you’re too aggressive against them there’s going to be ice open up in the middle of the ice, and that’s where it always goes.
“They make those blind passes and they just know. Their whole game is about creating 2-on-1s, just bringing the guy into you … so it’s a fine line – being aggressive when they don’t have it, and if they happen to get possession, sometimes you got to sit because they’re not Steven Stamkos. They don’t have that world class shot. But they are world-class playmakers.”
Sutter kept beating the drum that Game 4 was his team’s best game of the series and he reiterated that they’re still the underdog even though they have a 3-1 series lead.
He sounded as if he needed a lot more from his team.
“I liked our five-on-five play [in Game 4] but we’re not going to beat the Vancouver Canucks unless everybody plays to their (level) because of the skill set that they have,” Sutter said. “If we have three or four guys that don’t try to play to their skill set then we’re not going to beat them.”
Clifford remains out: Kyle Clifford (upper body) did not skate for a third consecutive game, which all but rules him out from returning anytime soon.
Clifford was hit by Byron Bitz on Game 1. It is called an upper-body injury but the team is taking the same protocol they would for a concussion.