On the other side of the plexiglass, and underneath the face shields, there's a game within a game going on when it comes to playoff hockey.
Blackberry All-Access Pregame Show
Kings Playoff Primetime
"Chirping" -- the hockey term for on-ice trash-talking -- has become a prominent part of the first-round series between the Kings and Vancouver Canucks, which is tied 1-1 and continues with Game 3 tonight at STAPLES Center.
The Kings have their share of talkers, and the Canucks have an infamous one in Alex Burrows, who apparently has been trying to get under Drew Doughty's skin. ( Doughty Interview)
Burrows and Doughty received matching roughing penalties in the second period of Game 1, and given that they're matched up against each other so often -- Burrows plays on the Canucks' first line and Doughty is the Kings' top defenseman -- it's natural that the two players would develop some animosity.
"Nothing specific," Doughty said. "He's just kind of trying to get under my skin. We kind of have battles back and forth, even starting from last year. We don't really like each other, I guess, too much on the ice, but it's a lot of fun. I just kind of have to stay away from that kind of stuff and not get myself in the box."
That's precisely the message that Kings coach Terry Murray has been attempting to drive home to his players in the past few days.
Murray said emotion is a big part of any game, but that he doesn't want to see his players take themselves away from their games because of it.
"Composure and discipline, that's a huge part of the playoff situation," Murray said. "You're going to get into some scrums out there. The important thing is, if you're going to be involved in some scrums and some pushing and shoving, that you initiate and not retaliate.
"Usually they [the referees] pick one guy out of the scrum at the end of the day, who has thrown the last punch or retaliated, and that's when you put yourself in a little bit of jeopardy and you're going to show the lack of composure, and it might carry over to the next shift. We've been pushing the composure. It's huge. You've got to stay with it."
Murray specifically brought up Rich Clune, who will be in the lineup for a second consecutive game tonight and is known for being an "agitator" on the ice. Murray said he spoke with Clune about remaining effective, not detrimental to his team.
"It has to be reigned in in the warmups," Murray said. "You just can't have that part in the warmup. You're out there to get prepared for the game. It's not where you cruise the red line and you're going to be jabbing each other with verbal shots, or throwing the puck at each other, like it used to be years ago. That's been cleaned up. I talked to Clune about that yesterday. He's got to reign that part of it in.
"But the emotional part of it, for him, that's his game. If he doesn't show the emotion, whether it's through physical play or chirping a little bit, then what's he going to do for me? How is he going to contribute to the game? … It has to be under control all the time. You cannot let the opponent turn the tables on you and bring it back the other way, where it's going to cause concern."
Mark Hardy is still behind the bench, but everything else has changed.
Tonight will be the Kings' first home playoff game since April 27, 2002, when they beat Colorado 3-1 in Game 6 of a first-round series they eventually lost in Game 7. ( Brad Richardson on Atmosphere)
No players who appeared in that game for the Kings are still around, at least in an on-ice role. Nelson Emerson, who played in the game, is now a part of the Kings' staff in a player-development role. Hardy, an assistant coach under then-coach Andy Murray, is now an assistant coach under Terry Murray.
Terry Murray said he's looking forward to experiencing playoff hockey in Los Angeles for the first time.
"The emotion is going to be high. We know that," Murray said. "I don't have a lot of concern about it. We have to deal with it. It's going to be a great environment to start, the first playoff game at home for a lot of players on this team. I've heard so much, over the years, about the way the fans are going to bring energy to the game in the playoffs in L.A., and I'm looking forward to seeing that.
"This is exciting. We just have to make sure we're staying composed, keeping the shifts real short, getting out there and doing the right stuff, and build off the momentum that we got in Game 2."
The Kings are expected to go with the same lineup they had in Game 2, with Justin Williams, Raitis Ivanans, Davis Drewiske and Randy Jones as the scratches.
The Canucks are expected to make a couple changes. Tanner Glass will join the lineup in place of Rick Rypien on the fourth line, and Pavol Demitra will be moved down to the fourth line from the second line. ( Jack Johnson on shutting down Vancouver)
Vancouver's new second line is expected to have Ryan Kesler centering Mason Raymond and Mikael Samuelsson.
The Canucks also appear to be contemplating a change on defense, with previous injured Aaron Rome possibly replacing Andrew Alberts.
It's still early in the playoffs, of course, but so far the Kings' power play has been a major success, with the unit scoring four goals in its first nine opportunities.
( Fredrik Modin on the powerplay)
The Kings finished the regular season with the seventh-best power-play percentage in the NHL and scored the fifth-most power-play goals.
"It has been good all year long," Murray said. "That's an area that has got to be good in the playoffs. Jamie Kompon does a good job of preparing the team. He spends a lot of time with the presentations and the detail part of it.
"When you go against teams that are very aggressive, taking away space, taking away time, and don't want to let good players have the opportunity to make good plays, there have to be tremendous reads made by players off the puck. I think that's something that the guys are working very hard for each other, to make those little plays that are creating scoring chances."