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Kings Focus On Mentality For Game 6

by Rich Hammond / Los Angeles Kings
Tonight’s game is at STAPLES Center, but is there really a home-ice advantage?

So far in this first-round playoff series between the Kings and the San Jose Sharks, it’s been the road warriors getting the job done. Since Game 1, the road team has won four consecutive games, a trend the Kings will be trying to reverse tonight.

The Kings, who won a potential elimination game on Saturday in San Jose, need to do the same tonight in order to keep the series going and face a Game 7 in San Jose on Wednesday night. Can they follow the script they used up north?

``We have to bring that kind of mentality here,’’ Kings coach Terry Murray said after Monday’s morning skate. ``The thing that you have to be heads up on, in a game like this here tonight is, you go on the road in Game 5, you play with a great deal of focus and you know you had to pay a lot of prices in order to win that game. You come back and you take a little sigh of relief, you take your foot off the gas pedal, and now they're coming in with the same attitude we had in Game 5. So we've got to be heads up on that, and make sure you're ready to play the right way.’’

At this point, there are no secrets between the two teams. Counting the regular season, this will be the 12th meeting of the Pacific Division rivals. The Kings are expected to go with the same lines and defensive pairings that they used in Game 5.

In general, though, the Kings will need to show improvement from their previous two games at STAPLES Center, two losses that put them in a 3-1 series hole.

``We've got to find a way to bring our focus, that we have on the road, back here,’’ Kings captain Dustin Brown said. ``That's up to the responsibility of each individual to bring their own game.’’

Scott Parse will be in the lineup again tonight.
Scott Parse will stay in the lineup tonight, after he played more than 10 minutes in Game 5, his first game since he underwent hip surgery in mid-November.

The Kings, in search of a spark, returned Parse to the lineup and put him in a high-profile role alongside center Michal Handzus and right winger Justin Williams.

``Parse, going in for the first time in several months, I thought he played pretty well,’’ Murray said. ``He showed a lot of confidence with the puck. And he has that, I guess you'd call it a little bit of that inner arrogance that you have to have as a pro athlete, to have the confidence in your own game, to play and to know exactly what it is you can do and try to do it. And I thought he stepped in and did a pretty decent job.’’

The Sharks recorded 52 shots on goal in Game 5, which tied a Kings playoff record for most opponent shots in a game, but Murray didn’t express significant concern.

Murray and the coaching staff break down game film and track opponents’ high-percentage scoring chances -- or, as Murray calls them, ``grade-A chances’’ -- and seeks to limit those, rather than focusing on the raw shot-on-goal totals.

``I don’t even look at the 52 shots very long,’’ Murray said. ``I know it was there, but it’s not a number that I’m concerned about. We always break those numbers down to smaller areas. It’s the grade-A quality chances that are the ones that I really focus in on. That number was not too bad. Quick was called on to play very well. The plays that were inside of home plate were, you’re probably look at 12 to 15, maybe 15.

``That number is a little high from what our average is over the course of the year, but when you’re looking at a powerhouse of a team like that, and the number of power plays that they had, the number was not too bad.’’

Rookie Kyle Clifford leads the Kings in goals this postseason with 3.
Put together late in the regular season, the line of center Brad Richardson and wingers Kyle Clifford and Wayne Simmonds has led the way for the Kings in this series.

None of the forwards is older than 26 and, before this series, none of them had appeared in more than 15 NHL playoff games. But entering tonight’s Game 6, Clifford leads the Kings with three goals. Clifford and Richardson are tied for the team lead with five points each.

``They’ve played very well,’’ Murray said. ``That group, whenever they were together earlier in the year, they like to play for each other. The fact that you’re looking at a young player [Clifford], a rookie putting some pucks into the back of the net, it really doesn’t surprise me. It has happened in the history of the game. And you have a player doing it who plays that hard game. He goes to the areas that you have to go to, to play at this time of year. There’s no reluctance, no hesitation in physical contact in paying a price in order to recover pucks. You get rewarded for that attitude.’’

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