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Kings face Game 6 'not like we're panicking'

by Corey Masisak

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- By the time the Los Angeles Kings began Game 4 of their Western Conference First Round series against the San Jose Sharks, the players and coach Darryl Sutter felt they were already playing better, and by sticking to the process, the results followed.

Sutter was adamant the Kings were not as bad as the score indicated in Game 2 against the Sharks (7-2), and several players have said they felt the Kings were the better team in a Game 3 overtime loss (4-3).

The Kings are in a familiar spot during their Western Conference Second Round series with the Anaheim Ducks. The Ducks have won three straight, and the Kings will face elimination from the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs for a fifth time Wednesday at Staples Center (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TSN, RDS).

The plan will be the same: Make minor adjustments and trust the process.

"We don't like it obviously, but it's not like we're panicking," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. "We're not going to play so desperate where, you know, you can actually play too desperate and run around trying to do too much and in return you don't play your best game.

"So because we're comfortable, we know exactly how desperate to play, and we're just going to show how badly we want it."

The question is, can the Kings find similar results? Los Angeles got better as the series with San Jose progressed. The Kings have been the better team in spurts against the Ducks, but mistakes have been costly and a couple of wrinkles in the series from Anaheim have been made the task at hand for Los Angeles tougher.

Goaltender John Gibson has been the headliner for the new-look Ducks, but defenseman Sami Vatanen has offered a big boost in an area where each team has injuries.

The Kings have been winning the puck-possession battle, but Vatanen has the best Corsi-for percentage relative to the team's over the past three games. Next on that list is Ducks forward Kyle Palmieri, who also was inserted into the lineup three games ago.

Palmieri came into the lineup because Matt Beleskey was injured, and the other move was forward Devante Smith-Pelly earning a promotion to the top line, where he was excelled.

There aren't likely to be any similar personnel changes coming for the Kings. Defenseman Willie Mitchell skated on his own Tuesday morning, but Sutter said it was the first time in 12 days and he cast serious doubt on Mitchell's availability for Game 6. Game 7 would be Friday at Honda Center.

"We're trying to maximize what we've got in the lineup. Maybe we've played as good as we can," Sutter said. "Maybe we have. We've played well enough to win two and stay in the other ones.

"I think there is [more]. Sometimes it's just not about X's and O's ... maybe there's guys who can play better."

The Kings are a veteran team, and Sutter is a veteran NHL coach. He said earlier this postseason one of the Kings' strengths is the players' ability to take what they need from a game and forget about what they don't to prepare for the next one.

What the Kings need in Game 6 is relatively simple, but the Ducks will have plenty to say about limiting turnovers and quality scoring chances defensively while finding more at the other end.

"It's two good hockey clubs," Sutter said. "Basically other than empty-netters they're all one-goal games. And hopefully we'll get the one more [Wednesday] night.

Los Angeles forward Marian Gaborik said, "I think if we limit the turnovers, and if we play like we did in the third period, with a lot of poise and urgency, and keep getting to Gibson, getting shots through, finding rebounds, fighting for the puck, that would be a good way to start."

The Kings won the Stanley Cup in 2012. They rallied from a 2-0 series deficit in 2013 and 3-0 this year. They will try to rely on that experience to force a Game 7.

"I love these opportunities, I love the pressure," Doughty said. "I know that going into these situations I'm going to be counted upon and in order for us to win I've got to be at the top of my game, so, I just look forward to these opportunities. I just want to go out there and play defensively, that's always my main thing, shutting down the other team's top line, and then after that, trying to get involved in the offense, and still don't think I've played my absolute best this series, so I'm going to need to do it at home [Wednesday]."

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