CHICAGO -- It might have been a smile or it could have been something more like a smirk -- it was hard to tell. Either way, it was a noticeable tell coming off Dustin Brown's Stanley Cup Playoff poker face as he spoke about why he and the rest of the Los Angeles Kings might still have some fight left in them in the Western Conference Final.
The Kings trail the Chicago Blackhawks 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, with Game 5 set for Saturday at United Center (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).
"One thing about this group of guys is we tend to play our best hockey when we're really in trouble," Brown said as he smiled (or smirked) late Friday afternoon from inside the Kings' downtown hotel. "You look at last year in the regular season, I think we were in 13th place with 20 games to go. It's a different situation when you've just got one game to play, but you can draw on being in the trench hole together.
"I think it's key for us, the fact that we've been through it together and we've been down in the holes together. I think the most important thing is just leaning on each other at a time like right now."
That shouldn't be a problem for this tight-knit team that still regularly dresses 17 players (concussed center Mike Richards not included) who had their names engraved on the Stanley Cup this past summer.
What can be a problem -- and has been throughout this postseason -- is the fact the Kings have to keep their season going with a road win. They are 1-7 away from Staples Center after going 10-1 on the road in their Cup run a year ago.
They have no explanation why they have struggled on the road -- they've lost six games 2-1, including two in overtime -- but confidence doesn't appear to be an issue.
"No, I'm not too worried about it," Kings forward Justin Williams said when asked about having to win on the road or go home. "It hasn't gone our way on the road, obviously, but now we need to win two of them in the United Center. We're not scared of it. We're certainly not scared of it. We're going to welcome the challenge to beat the best team in the League this year in their own house, starting [Saturday]."
To do it, the Kings must be way better than they were in the third period of Game 4, when they managed two shots on goal and barely got close to the net despite the fact they had to push for the equalizer after Marian Hossa's go-ahead goal 70 seconds into the period.
The Kings' play in the third period Thursday led some critics to question if they are tired, out of gas after playing six knock-down, drag-out games against the St. Louis Blues in the conference quarterfinals then seven against the San Jose Sharks in the Western semifinals.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter quickly shot down that theory after the game Thursday, when he didn't want to listen to a question about a lack of desperation. Friday, Sutter noted the difference in how Chicago operates in the neutral zone when it has a lead.
"Both teams play outstanding games in the neutral zone, so when you have a lead you can do it even better," Sutter said. "You can basically force the other team to chip it in and then you can chip it out and then they chip it in and you chip it out. Sometimes it has to be a broken play for there to be [a goal]."
There weren't any broken plays that led to quality scoring chances for the Kings in the third period of Game 4, a 3-2 loss. They will be looking for a few early in Game 5 because they like their chances when scoring first despite blowing one-goal leads early in the first and second periods Thursday night.
"If you think you can outscore Chicago, meaning get into a high-scoring game, you're going to lose," Sutter said. "It is way better to prevent goals against this club then to think you're going to outscore them."
The Kings likely will have to do it without Richards, who Sutter said "is still doubtful at best" to play in Game 5. Richards has missed the past three games with a concussion.
Richards did join the team on the trip here, and nobody is ruling him out for the rest of the series -- if there is a rest of the series after Saturday.
The Kings think they've got enough left to make that happen. They like it when people count them out.
"You look at the opponent we're playing -- they were in the exact same situation and they came out of it in the last round," defenseman Robyn Regehr said, referencing Chicago's comeback against the Detroit Red Wings from a 3-1 series deficit in the previous round. "It's something that is very doable. We're preparing to win one game [Saturday] and that's as far as we're looking right now."