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Kings recognize special opportunity in front of them

by Brian Compton

NEW YORK -- Many players, coaches and general managers go their entire career without reaching a Stanley Cup Final, let alone winning a championship.

But the Los Angeles Kings find themselves in the fortunate position of going for their second crown in three seasons when they face the New York Rangers in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Madison Square Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

It's a remarkable story being written by Los Angeles, which replaced coach Terry Murray with Darryl Sutter in December 2011, when it resided in 12th place in the Western Conference. The Kings would go on to win the Stanley Cup that season and reached the conference final in 2013 before losing to the Chicago Blackhawks.

This postseason, the Kings became the first team in NHL history to win three Game 7s, and did so each time on the road. Now they're up 3-0 on the Rangers and one win away from another Cup. They realize how special this is.

"Most players, coaches, trainers never get any chance [at a championship] … zero," Sutter said Tuesday. "So when you get the opportunity, and I've been fortunate to be in quite a few of them, so it's always a testament to the group you have and to understand how tough it is.

"That's why not many people or teams win it, because it's hard for them to take on the whole challenge of what it is to win and the price you've got to pay and the sacrifice you've got to make."

The Kings held a 3-0 lead in the 2012 Stanley Cup Final but lost the next two games before ultimately winning their first championship in Game 6 against the New Jersey Devils. Los Angeles defenseman Drew Doughty, a candidate for the Conn Smythe Trophy, said he hopes his team's experience will shine through Wednesday.

"It's just an exciting time," Doughty said. "I don't think you get more nervous or anything. I treat it, a lot of other guys treat it, as if it's another game. Yeah, you get a little nervous maybe the day before knowing you have the possibility to win it. At the same time, so many things could happen that you won't win it as well. I'm just trying to treat it as a regular game, just trying to play as well as I can. Just go in there being confident in our team, hoping we can win it.

"I can't wait to get out there. It kind of [stinks] that the game is at 8 [o'clock], waiting around during the day. You just want to get out there. You don't want to get overanxious at the same time. But it's fun to play in these types of games. When the pressure's at a high, you just want to go out there, play your best as a team, win games. I just can't wait to get out there, get warm-ups over there, drop the first puck."

Considering the Kings have won four straight games, it's hard to envision Sutter making any lineup changes Wednesday. Defenseman Robyn Regehr is healthy after sustaining a knee injury in the second round against the Anaheim Ducks, but Matt Greene performed admirably Monday and is likely to play again Wednesday.

Sutter said it won't be difficult to make the lineup, though he knows everyone would like to play on a night when the Stanley Cup is in the building.

"We're trying to win a game," Sutter said. "The sheet tells you you can only dress 20 players. If I could only dress 12, I'd dress 12. If I could dress 30, I'd dress 30. But it says 18 [skaters] and two [goaltenders], so you go, 'This is going to give us the best opportunity to win tonight.'"

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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