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Kings back in a routine as Game 1 nears

By Dan Rosen - NHL.com Senior Writer

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Kings back in a routine as Game 1 nears
The Kings' long break between series is almost over, and they're eager to get back onto the ice against Phoenix for Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals.

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Kings are back on schedule -- almost.

OK, so the players' routines might be thrown off slightly because there won't be a morning skate prior to Game 1 of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday at Jobing.com Arena as a result of the 5 p.m. local time start, but that's why the Kings flew into town Saturday morning and had a practice here in the afternoon.

Other than not having a morning skate, the Kings finally feel like they are back in playoff mode after a hiatus of nearly a week following their four-game series sweep of the St. Louis Blues.

And, yes, it feels good.

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"I think practicing here [Saturday] was a good idea just to get a practice in this rink and get refocused to ramp it right back up even though we've had quite a bit of a layoff," captain Dustin Brown told NHL.com. "Coming in here and getting in the environment definitely helps. We're starting on the road and we're practicing on the road and that definitely helps get your mind ready."

Preparation, focus and a good start all go hand-in-hand. The Kings are focused on those three in order right now after spending a week working on keeping in shape, scouting some of the tendencies of their opponent, and making sure their system-play remains intact.

"They've been a team that's won at home early, first games, so they got lots of energy in here with the crowd," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said, referring to the Coyotes' 2-0 home record in Game 1s this postseason. "It will be awesome, but it will be tough early."

Even knowing that, is it harder to prepare and stay focused on having a good start when you haven't had to do that for a week?

"You're always concerned about the emotional level of the group, always," Sutter said. "I'm sure they're the same way as us."

He may have a point. The Coyotes have had only one less day to wait around than the Kings -- they finished their five-game series win over Nashville this past Monday.

Regardless, Kings forward Justin Williams told NHL.com that being ready is a must; no excuses.

"At this level, if you're not prepared to play when there are four teams left then you're not going to win the first game," he said. "You're not going to have a good start, and that is one thing you certainly need coming into someone else's arena because you know they're going to be gung-ho, their fans are going to be excited, and the start of the game can sometimes dictate how the play is going to be the whole game."

The key word is obviously "game" -- the Kings can't wait to finally play another one.

"It's nice to just get back to the routine a little bit," Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "While the season is still going on you want to keep it going, you don't want too long a break. It's nice to have a bit of recuperation time, but after seven days, I think we're all ready to play."

Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl

Quote of the Day

I remember the first time at Wrigley Field all of us had the long johns, the turtlenecks and the extra equipment because we were afraid of being cold. Halfway through the first period everybody's ripping everything off and we just ended up wearing what we would normally wear for a game at the United Center.

— Chicago Blackhawks forward Patrick Sharp on the 2009 Bridgestone NHL Winter Classic