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Kings hope to improve playoff home record

by Curtis Zupke

LOS ANGELES – During their run to the 2013 Western Conference Final, the Los Angeles Kings were able to find refuge at Staples Center. They won their first eight games at home during those Stanley Cup Playoffs, including elimination games against the St. Louis Blues and San Jose Sharks.

This season has been different, however, for a team that has won eight playoff series in the past three seasons. The Kings are 3-3 at Staples Center in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs, a mediocre home record they will try to improve when the Conference Final against the Chicago Blackhawks shifts to Los Angeles with Game 3 on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, RDS).

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1.

"It hasn't been great, but we also won the games that we needed," center Anze Kopitar said of the Kings' home record. "I think it's just a matter of focusing and having the sense of urgency and having a good start. It's not going to be any different, really. I'm sure the building's going to be pretty loud, just like it always is. We've just got to make sure we have a good start and build on that."

Los Angeles won two of three games at home in its first-round series against San Jose, and the one loss came on an unusual overtime goal by Patrick Marleau in Game 3 that put the Kings in a 3-0 series deficit. The Kings dropped their first two home games against the Anaheim Ducks in the second round and scored four goals total in the three home games in that series, although they won Game 6.

Coach Darryl Sutter found it difficult to reflect on whether that 3-3 record at Staples Center is entirely representative of his team's play, but he doesn't seem concerned. At least not yet.

"We haven't played Chicago yet at home," Sutter said. "We'll evaluate that after tonight. Looking back, we played really good games at home. Quite honest, the turning point in the San Jose series was Game 3 that we lost in overtime here. We don't really dwell on that."

The priority placed on having a good start can seem like one of hockey's great clichés, but it actually applies to Game 3. Especially after the Kings took four penalties in the first period of Game 2 in Chicago. Los Angeles has trailed six times after the first period in the playoffs and Chicago has faced that circumstance twice. The Kings have gone 1-5 in those six games; Chicago is 1-1 when they've trailed after 20 minutes.

"You don't want to put our team on the heels [with] their top guys handling the puck with not a whole lot of pressure," Kopitar said. "You want to put pressure as much as you can with them, and [with] the power play that's kind of limited. Definitely staying out of the box early, late, whatever the case may be."

Defenseman Willie Mitchell referenced warm-ups as part of the buildup to the start of any game.

"It's like a horse in the first corner," Mitchell said. "Sometimes you've got to pull the reins back a little bit and not leave it all out there in warm-ups. Save it for the game.

"[We need to] try to harness some of the energy in the building and have a great start against a good hockey club. They're saying the same things. It's just about who's going out and executing the best."

There may a different energy for the start of Game 3. Former Guns N' Roses guitarist Slash will perform the national anthem in place of regular singer Pia Toscano.

It shouldn't affect Kopitar, who, when asked if he's a Guns N' Roses fan, replied, "No, not really."

The Kings held an optional skate on Saturday and center Jeff Carter, right wing Dustin Brown, left wing Marian Gaborik, right wing Justin Williams and goalie Jonathan Quick did not participate.

Chicago did not skate on Saturday

Here is the projected lineup for the Kings in Game:

Marian GaborikAnze KopitarDustin Brown

Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Dwight KingMike RichardsJustin Williams

Kyle CliffordJarret StollTrevor Lewis

Jake MuzzinDrew Doughty

Willie MitchellSlava Voynov

Alec MartinezMatt Greene

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Injured: Robyn Regehr (knee)

Scratched: Jeff Schultz, Jordan Nolan, Brayden McNabb, Linden Vey, Andy Andreoff, Colin Fraser, Andrew Bodnarchuk

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