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Kings Excited for Playoff Atmosphere Tonight

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
After a split in San Jose, the Kings return to STAPLES Center tonight for Game 3 of their first-round series. Most everyone is expecting plenty of noise and enthusiasm.

A column, published Tuesday morning in the San Jose Mercury News, blasted the noise level inside STAPLES Center -- and pretty much every other aspect of life in Southern California -- and only figures to increase the intensity in the already tight series.

In contrast to the ``Kenny G experience’’ expected by the Bay Area columnist, Kings coach Terry Murray said he’s counting on crowd support to rival that of any arena.

``I'm expecting it to be very revved-up, very loud, noisy, a lot of energy, lots of emotion,’’ Murray said after Tuesday’s morning skate. ``You've got the L.A. Kings playing and you've got two California teams playing. I think that means even more for the fans, to come to the building and really get it going here tonight.

``Our fans are great fans. Great fans. Last year, I was very impressed. Last year, in the playoffs against Vancouver, there was as much energy and enthusiasm and support in the building as any building that I've been in. I've been through the Flyers organization, and you go through the conference finals and (Stanley Cup) Finals, and that's incredible. Montreal is incredible. San Jose is a very loud building. But the L.A. Kings, Staples Center, is as good as anybody in the league.''

That said, Murray remained mindful of a couple major on-ice factors.

The Sharks figure to be highly motivated after their Game 2 loss on Saturday, and in Monday night’s playoff games, the road teams went 3-for-3.

``Coming back home, we had the day off and the team deserved that,’’ Murray said. ``They had a nice off-ice workout and got back on the ice yesterday for about an hour of intensity and fun together, working hard for each other and hard together. I think there's a good feeling in the locker room. We're excited about this game.

``We know what happened last night in the league. Every home team lost. It's going to be important, today, that we go through the process of understanding what happened in those games, and that you come out and play the right way. The old cliche is, don't mistake activity for achievement. You need to come out and play with structure, play the system, play the right way, and that way everything stays under control.’’

Jarret Stoll will be back in the lineup tonight.
Kings center Jarret Stoll returns from his one-game suspension tonight and will return to his usual spot between wingers Ryan Smyth and Justin Williams.

Trevor Lewis returns to the fourth line, centering Alexei Ponikarovsky and Kevin Westgarth, and rookie Oscar Moller is expected to be a healthy scratch.

As the home team, the Kings have the right to the final line change tonight, but Murray said he doesn’t expect much to change in terms of matching up against the Sharks.

``When you're on the road, you're looking to get your matchups,’’ Murray said. ``You're trying to change a little bit on the fly, more from the back end than your forward lines. We're a team, right now, that plays four lines. We feel we have to, and want to. There's good energy. Our fourth line is giving us a lot. But the matchup that we primarily go to is when we match up our blue-line corps.’’

Tyler Toffoli of the Ottawa 67s.
The Kings have signed forward prospects Tyler Toffoli and Jordan Weal to standard three-year, entry-level contracts. Both players had been with the AHL’s Manchester Monarchs under amateur-tryout agreements, and will remain there for the playoffs.

This season, Toffoli (a second-round pick of the Kings last year) led the Ontario Hockey League with 57 goals and totaled 108 points in 68 regular-season games for the Ottawa 67s. Weal (a third-round pick of the Kings last year) tied for fifth in the Western Hockey League in scoring with 96 points (43 goals, 53 assists) in 72 regular-season games.

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