By Curtis Zupke - NHL.com Correspondent
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- The Los Angeles Kings stayed clear of the rink when they reconvened at their local practice facility Sunday. Not only were they not on the ice, they conducted their media session on the practice floor of the Los Angeles Lakers, who share the building.
"Were you guys out there playing basketball?" Kings coach Darryl Sutter said to a group of reporters walking into the gym.
Sutter was in an upbeat mood despite a less-than-ideal turnaround period for both the Kings and New Jersey Devils, who get one travel day before Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday at 5 p.m. Pacific time. The Kings landed in Los Angeles at 3:30 a.m. PT from Newark, N.J., and "everybody's in bed by 4:30," Sutter noted.
Sutter, a worrywart about travel, said prior to the series that coming back would present the biggest challenge in regards to rest and acclimation to the time change. An overtime in Game 2 contributed to the short turnaround, but this is perhaps where the Kings might have an advantage as a West Coast team that logs more air time than East Coast teams like the Devils.
"We're probably a little more conditioned to the travel," captain Dustin Brown said. "I've done this 10, 12 times this year – getting home at three in the morning and having to get up the next day. But again, in saying that, at this point of the year, it's about finding a way regardless of your situation."
Anze Kopitar said "travel in the West is a little longer and tougher and we change a lot more time zones than you do in the East, but it's not going to matter. You have to prepare yourself to the top level that you can possibly can. That's going to be really important tomorrow."
Home ice is actually the more precarious venue for the Kings, whose two losses in the Stanley Cup Playoffs have come at Staples Center. L.A. lost Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals to the Vancouver Canucks and Game 4 of the conference finals against the Phoenix Coyotes.
The Kings are not really excited about their play, either, despite pulling out two overtime games. Brown said of the Devils that, "They're dumping it in and they're getting it back, which hasn't happened to us … in Game 2, in particular, we probably spent the most time in our D-zone since the beginning of the playoffs.
"That's one of those things where they're doing a good job. It's a double-edged sword because it's a lot harder to play in the D-zone. I think you can ask any of our defensemen today, they're probably a little more tired than they've been all postseason."
Los Angeles will certainly get adrenaline and feed off a boisterous home crowd and dedicated base that is watching Kings come as close to the Stanley Cup as they've ever been in their 45-year history. The 1993 team lost, 4-1, to the Montreal Canadiens, but that's really where the comparisons end.
"We have to improve," Mike Richards said. "That was the goal and mindset right from Day One in training camp is to get better with every game. We have to do that and carry the energy that's going to be at Staples Center because it's probably one of the loudest rinks I've ever played in. I think it's exciting. I think everybody here is excited. Even though we got in late last night, you could still feel the energy in the building and the dressing room. Tomorrow's going to be no different."
The Kings have done a masterful job of not talking about both their 10-0 road record, any inkling of destiny and what appears to be on the horizon. Brown gave a child-like grin when talking about his Stanley Cup dreams as a kid, but none of his teammates gave much hint about it.
Defenseman Drew Doughty stood on an elevated box a few feet from the Lakers' center-court logo. Banners of the Lakers' 16 championships hanging above the court. Doughty said he had never ventured over to this side before, but he took note of the decorations.
Said Doughty: "It would be nice to throw one of those up in our practice facility, for sure."