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On precipice of title, Kings eager to get to work

by Staff Writer / Los Angeles Kings

By Curtis Zupke - Correspondent

LOS ANGELES -- Jarret Stoll sent a good-natured verbal jab to a teammate for a missed pass. Mike Richards gave a friendly nod to two local reporters as he headed for the locker room. There was the sly smile of Willie Mitchell as he took off his equipment.

The Los Angeles Kings welcomed Wednesday with optimism and small traces of emotion. While Tuesday was a time to answer the usual questions about winning the franchise's first Stanley Cup, there wasn't really time to think about it at the morning skate before the Kings faced the New Jersey Devils in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final.

Few players get to experience game day in June. The Kings had almost full participation at their skate. The inimitable Dustin Penner put it into words.

"It's a different feeling," Penner said. "We've worked the whole season to get here. Some guys work their whole career. Today your dreams, or lifetime goals, stares you in the face. You have an opportunity now. You have four games to reach it. It's a pretty special moment that everybody, I think, will look back on, who hasn't been here before. And the guys who have been there can appreciate it to a greater extent."

Penner knows this feeling, having won the Cup with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007. Most of his teammates haven't been through this, and even coach Darryl Sutter talked about enjoying an experience that might not come around again.

"We have a lot of young guys who haven't been through this before," Sutter said. "You want them to experience it. … Lots of ‘em -- first time, only time."

Part of the spectacle of being on the cusp of a Cup involves handling the outside distractions as family and friends descend for the coronation, and Sutter said they've done "a good job of this right from the start" in regards to keeping focus.

Veteran defenseman Mitchell said he's received lots of ticket requests, but for the most part his inner circle recognizes the situation.

"They know," Mitchell said. "They know the significance of where we're at. I find that your family and friends that are closest to you understand that. They don't demand anything from you. They don't do anything except stay out of the way and support you. It's great. Like I said, the last one's the toughest one, and we're going to have a real tough hockey game on our hands tonight, so we're just trying to prepare the right way."

Stoll said it helps that the team is staying at a nearby hotel downtown. His house in the South Bay is otherwise full.

"I have everybody: brother, sister, my niece, my nephew, my parents, five or six of my buddies, my billets from junior," Stoll said.

"Everyone's staying at my house, so I got a house full but I'm not even there."

Sutter, who often says game day is the most enjoyable part of his job, said his morning routine wasn't anything out of the normal. His press conference veered from normalcy when a zany local radio personality tried to engage him on the topic of Zen.

"I don't know what it is," Sutter said. "Is it like hot yoga?"

When there were no more questions, Sutter concluded it with his favorite word.

"Awesome," he said.

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