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Kings looking to improve on road; Kopitar OK

by Curtis Zupke

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- It was easy for the Los Angeles Kings to joke and shrug off a dangerous-looking facial injury to Anze Kopitar a day later.

Kopitar said he needed about 20 stitches to close a cut near his mouth after he was hit by the puck on a shot by teammate Dustin Brown in the third period of Game 2 of the Western Conference Semifinal series Thursday night.

"There goes the modeling career," coach Darryl Sutter joked. "Best looking Slovenian athlete."

Informed of Sutter's comment, Kopitar said, "I think that ship has sailed long time ago."

Kopitar returned to the "Rocky" theme song at Staples Center, and the Kings delivered one of the franchise's greatest comeback wins in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they erased a 3-2 deficit in the final two minutes for a 4-3 win against the San Jose Sharks.

Modeling jokes aside, the Kings must put on a serious face as the best-of-7 series moves to HP Pavilion for Games 3 and 4. L.A. leads, 2-0, but it is somewhat misleading given it was largely outplayed in both games.

The Kings have scored 18 goals in eight playoff games yet are 6-2. They've allowed 13 goals in that stretch, thanks to goalie Jonathan Quick and a penalty-killing unit that has held the Sharks scoreless in seven attempts that total 13:30 minutes. Los Angeles, which allowed the third-fewest shots per game (25) in the regular season, has allowed 66 in two games.

"We haven't played our best hockey yet," Kings forward Brad Richardson said. "That's the thing. We've kind of been sitting back and letting them take it to us in the D-zone. We've got to start shooting the puck more and getting it and playing it in their zone. We're shooting the puck a little bit but we're not getting it to the net enough. We're not creating those scrums around and getting enough offensive-zone time. We've been playing a lot in our defensive zone and relying on Quickie too much."

This contrasts with last year's Cup run, when the Kings rarely faced adversity or injury. This year, L.A. came back from an 0-2 series deficit in the quarterfinals and is without center Jarret Stoll and wing Kyle Clifford.

But to Sutter, there is no smooth path in the playoffs.

"You don't win every period, you don't win every shift and you don't win every game," Sutter said.

The numbers suggest Los Angeles should be concerned about going on the road. The Kings went 8-12-4 and allowed 74 goals in 24 games away from home in the regular season. It went 0-1-1 at HP Pavilion, although it generated 43 and 37 shots in those games.

"To be honest … I always like playing there," Richardson said. "But the fans are one of the loudest in the League. But they're good at home ice. They have a little more confidence out there. They usually come out pretty hard. It's definitely something we've got to push back at the start and bring it to them."

Sutter, who coached in San Jose for five-plus seasons, at first downplayed the challenge of HP Pavilion because his team is so familiar with it from divisional play. But he remembered that the "Shark Tank" was a particular advantage during the successful seasons.

"It's one of the old buildings that's right on top of you," Sutter said. "That's still the biggest difference in home/road. Everybody makes a big deal about it. Quite honest, most buildings are generic, just different colors. But that one's still one of the old ones. Chicago is able to recapture, pull the emotion across the road again. San Jose is one of the smaller buildings that has a way of always staying there. That's still one of the fun parts."

Clifford skated for the third time since his injury but has not been cleared for contact. The team has not disclosed his injury but it is believed to be to his upper body.

He didn't say if he would be able to get back in action for this series.

"It's up in the air right now," Clifford said. "I think those are best answers you guys are going to get."

This is the second time Clifford will miss at least part of the playoffs. He was concussed by Byron Bitz of the Vancouver Canucks in the first round last year.

"It's definitely frustrating, but we still have a lot of playoff time left, so it's a good thing," he said.

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