Kings feel better equipped to block out distractions
LOS ANGELES -- Sometimes a team gets a do-over to clinch the Stanley Cup on home ice. Seldom does a team need that second chance as much the Los Angeles Kings.
Several players, notably Drew Doughty, said they were distracted before Game 4 because of their respective inner circles, a tacit admission that they weren't ready to play the game. So when the Kings stepped on Staples Center ice for their morning skate Monday, they said they have a narrower focus in preparation for Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final.
"A lot different," Jarret Stoll said. "Maybe we didn't handle it very good in Game 4, but I think we've learned a lot in the last couple days, the last couple of games. We've just got to find a way to win a game and put it out there. We need everybody. We need a perfect game. They need their perfect game."
The distractions for the Kings players were inevitable. Friends and family were in the building, along with the Cup, and players' phones tend to blow up with calls and texts when a team is one win away from lifting that Cup. New Jersey Devils coach Peter DeBoer alluded to driving past limousines outside the arena in talking about the impending celebration.
Then L.A. came out and couldn't engage the home crowd, and let the Devils believe they could extend the series. Not only did New Jersey do just that, the Devils have made it a heck of a series, and the belief is that Game 7 is entirely within the realm of possibility.
"I think there was a lot of first-timers going into Game 4, guys who haven't been there obviously, only eight or nine guys," said Dustin Penner, who was a part of the Anaheim Ducks' 2007 Cup championship team. "And now that we've got that out of the way I think we can have a better and more focused mentality going into Game 6 here."
Coach Darryl Sutter didn't change routine for the third go-round at trying to win the Cup. The Kings had a team dinner Sunday night and watched video -- "hockey video," Sutter noted. They are still staying in a nearby hotel.
Asked if he treats Game 6 as a road game to get rid of distractions, Sutter said no because he feels his team needs to get more comfortable in their own venue. This will be only the ninth home game out of 20 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Kings.
"I think what we've said right from the very start of the playoffs, because this team has not been in a playoff environment for more than two or three [home] games, most of these guys, the whole playoffs," Sutter said. "I wanted them to have the experience of being in this building and being close to this building. That's what's more important for the big picture for these players. It's not anything other than that."
Sutter felt his team played well in Game 5, but the Kings are facing a New Jersey team that, like it has all postseason, is getting better as the series gets deeper. Martin Brodeur has outplayed Jonathan Quick the past two games and L.A. needs Quick to match his 40-year-old counterpart.
"We need him to be great strength for us," Sutter said. "If you look at the series, we're up against a great goaltender and we need that out of Jonathan. Both guys are still playing because they can manage that. Obviously Marty has more experience with it, but that's what Jonathan's trying to do, also."
The other key to the Final is scoring first. The team that has taken a 1-0 lead has won all five games.
That would go a long way for the Kings in getting their home crowd behind them, something that got away from them in Game 4.
"Obviously we're going to try and get that first goal and push for it and push for a good start and make sure we're flying off the bat and going after them, putting pressure on them on all areas of the ice and see if we can get that first goal," Stoll said. "But if for some reason it doesn't happen, we're going to play the game. We're going to find a way."
The Kings had almost full participation at the morning skate. They didn't do line rushes and Sutter on Sunday said the changes he made in Game 5, when he went down to three lines, were only for a few shifts.
Simon Gagne is expected to return to the lineup, but Sutter naturally wouldn't commit to it. Sutter seemed to be in the wrong time zone when asked about Gagne.
"You get here at 7:22 [puck drop will be about 5:22 p.m. Pacific time] and then when they make that starting lineup announcement and there's a large roar and he's in, then you know he's in," Sutter said.