The Kings celebrated on the ice Wednesday night with hugs and head pats on the ice, moments after they clinched a playoff spot. Thursday morning, they went back to work.
Two games remain in the regular season -- Friday at Anaheim and Saturday against the Ducks at STAPLES Center -- and while the Kings are assured of a top-eight finish in the Western Conference, they have their eyes set on fourth place.
Fourth place would mean home-ice advantage in at least the first round of the playoffs, and the Kings could assure themselves of that with two wins over the Ducks.
|Ryan Smyth, in all of his years in the NHL, has never had home-ice advantage in the playoffs. |
``Any time you can get home ice in the playoffs, it's crucial,'' winger Ryan Smyth said. ``That's what you play the whole season for. It's a big stepping stone for this hockey club. I think it dates back to when Gretz was there. That's the last time they had home ice here, and I've never personally had home-ice advantage, so it would be nice to have that. That's what you play the season for, and then after that you find out who you will play.''
With a win Friday, the Kings would assure themselves of at least sixth place in the conference, and they would set a couple franchise single-season marks.
One more win would set the franchise single-season record. The Kings are sitting at 46 wins, the same number they totaled last season. Two more points would give the Kings 100 points for a second consecutive season, something that has never been done before in team history. The Kings have had only three 100-point seasons.
For all those reasons, the Kings intend to keep pushing, and will start No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick
on Friday and, perhaps, Saturday as well, if fourth place is still up for grabs heading into the season finale, coach Terry Murray said.
``We're looking for home ice right now,'' Murray said. ``We've got to keep going with this. We've done a great job here, under a lot of pressure in critical games, and we've got two more remaining. it's going to be a battle, but home ice is available for us.''HISTORY IN THE MAKING?
Anaheim had a chance to clinch a playoff spot Thursday night, if Colorado beat Dallas, and the Ducks could also assure themselves a playoff spot by claiming at least two points in their two games against the Kings.
Assuming the Kings make it, it would be the first time -- since the Ducks joined the NHL in 1993 -- that both Southern California teams made the playoffs in the same season. Throwing the San Jose Sharks in the mix as well, it would be the first time that all three California teams made the playoffs in the same season.
``I think it's going to be great for hockey in Southern California,'' Murray said. ``You go back into the days of the Stanley Cup Finals team here, with Gretzky, and I think it had a tremendous impact on the youth of the game. It will be the same way with both teams getting in, maybe in a playoff series against each other.
``We've got great fans here. They've been giving us tremendous support over the last couple years, and I think it would be the icing on top of the cake.''RECOVERY CONTINUESJustin Williams
continues to skate and go through post-practice drills. Williams, recovering from a dislocated shoulder, is scheduled to be evaluated again next week, and Murray said Williams might be ahead of the initial four-week prognosis for his recovery. The hope is that Williams might be able to return during the first-round series.PRAISE FOR PENNER
Murray hasn't been shy in his recent evaluations of winger Dustin Penner
, but Murray was pleased with the effort Penner gave in Wednesday's shootout win over Phoenix.
``I thought Penner really stepped his intensity up, his focus up,'' Murray said. ``He had the puck on his stick and challenged the defensemen several times with his speed, and I like to see that speed. He was trying to do the right thing to help this team win the game last night in regulation, and that's a great thing to see.''
DOUGHTY FOR VEZINA?
|Doughty sprawls on the ice Jon Quick-style, reaching for a loose puck. |
Quick made 33 saves against the Coyotes on Wednesday night, and the Kings also got a big ``save'' from Drew Doughty
. With the Coyotes on the power play in the second period, and already holding a 2-1 lead, they had an excellent scoring chance, but Doughty parked himself near the left post and blocked a shot that would have gone in the net.
``Actually, I looked at the replay and I probably could have just lifted the guy's stick, but that's just kind of what the reaction was,'' Doughty said. ``I didn't have his stick, so I just kind of went down and made a save.
``I would love to be a goalie, still to this day. When I was younger, I almost quit playing AAA hockey when I was 10. I was going to go back to house league, as a goalie. Thankfully, I didn't do that. I love goalie. Every time I play roller hockey, I'm in net no matter what. Any time we played pond hockey when I was younger, i would always be in net. I don't know. I just love being a goalie. I was a goalie in soccer as well. I don't know what it is, but I just love it, but like I said, luckily I didn't go back and change, because I probably wouldn't be here now.''