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Kings' Toffoli brushes nerves aside as Game 4 nears

by Brian Compton

NEW YORK -- Most of the players on the Los Angeles Kings roster slept well Tuesday night. After all, they've been in this position before, one win away from the Stanley Cup.

But when the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils for the championship in 2012, right wing Tyler Toffoli hadn't reached the NHL yet. He had just completed his final season of junior hockey, when he had 100 points (52 goals, 48 assists) in 65 games for the Ottawa 67's in the Ontario Hockey League.

This time around, Toffoli has played a huge role in the Kings' success in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The 22-year-old has 13 points (seven goals, six assists) in 24 games for Los Angeles, which can win the Cup with a victory in Game 4 against the New York Rangers on Wednesday at Madison Square Garden (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, RDS).

For Toffoli, he has a chance to fulfill a dream that's been roaming through his mind since his childhood days spent on the ponds in Ontario. One can certainly understand his anxiety.

"I fell asleep at 9 [on Tuesday night], woke up at 12 and then didn't fall back asleep 'til about 3," Toffoli said after an optional skate Wednesday morning. "I was excited. There was a lot of thoughts going through my mind. But today, it's all business. You've got to be focused and ready for the big task at hand."

Toffoli said his parents are in town, along with his girlfriend and her parents, for what could be a very special night in his life. It would be the culmination of what has been a remarkable run for him and the Kings, who won three Game 7s, all on the road, to reach the Stanley Cup Final.

Los Angeles never held a lead in regulation in the first two games of this series at Staples Center, but managed to win in overtime and double overtime, respectively. The Kings then won Game 3 by a 3-0 score behind a 32-save performance from goaltender Jonathan Quick. So with a chance to win the Cup in sight, it's natural if Toffoli is nervous. Luckily, he can rely on the more than dozen players in the dressing room who were in this situation two years ago.

"It's good to have the group of guys we have in that room because it kind of keeps my nerves and I'm sure it keeps other guys' nerves lower or whatever you want to call it," Toffoli said. "I mean, it's exciting. Obviously, you have to be excited. It's the Stanley Cup Finals. You've got to be ready to go. They're gonna be playing with everything to gain, and we've got to be ready for their push and keep our momentum from last game and keep getting to the net, playing strong in all three zones and just playing our game."

Los Angeles coach Darryl Sutter is expected to go with the same lineup that has allowed the Kings to race out to a 3-0 lead in this best-of-7 series. That means Toffoli would continue to skate with Tanner Pearson and Jeff Carter, which has arguably been one of the best lines on any team this postseason. Sutter said Wednesday morning that the veteran Carter has helped elevate Toffoli's game.

"Jeff Carter's a top player in the National Hockey League," Sutter said. "Any time you get to play with a top player, either you elevate your game or you don't play with them."

Here are the projected lineups:


Dustin BrownAnze KopitarMarian Gaborik

Tanner PearsonJeff CarterTyler Toffoli

Dwight KingJarret StollJustin Williams

Kyle CliffordMike RichardsTrevor Lewis

Jake MuzzinDrew Doughty

Willie Mitchell - Slava Voynov

Alec Martinez - Matt Greene

Jonathan Quick

Martin Jones

Scratched: Robyn Regehr, Colin Fraser, Jeff Schultz, Jordan Nolan


Rick NashDerek StepanChris Kreider

Carl HagelinBrad RichardsMartin St. Louis

Benoit PouliotDerick BrassardMats Zuccarello

Dominic MooreBrian BoyleDerek Dorsett

Ryan McDonaghDan Girardi

Marc StaalAnton Stralman

John MooreKevin Klein

Henrik Lundqvist

David Leneveu

Scratched: Raphael Diaz, Daniel Carcillo, Justin Falk, Jesper Fast, J.T. Miller

Injured: Cam Talbot (undisclosed)


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