CALGARY -- With three games remaining in the regular-season schedule, the Los Angeles Kings are in limbo.
Having clinched third place in the Pacific Division and unable to move up or down regardless of the outcome of their final games, the Kings await their first-round opponent when the puck drops on the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
But there are still plenty of reasons to play, according to forward Justin Williams.
"It's where you learn how to be a professional," said Williams, whose Kings open a set of back-to-back games in Alberta against the Calgary Flames on Wednesday. "It's all about professionalism and finishing off the right way. You have to be playing good hockey coming into the postseason. It's not a switch as many like to think that you can just flip on come playoff time. You have to be trending in the right direction, and these last three games are important for us."
Los Angeles will play either the San Jose Sharks or Anaheim Ducks in the first round. Anaheim holds a three-point lead over San Jose in the race for a Pacific Division title. Each team has three games remaining.
The Kings will open the playoffs on the road against whichever team is second in the division.
"We've got that third spot," forward Jarret Stoll said. "We know that. We don't know who we're playing, but you can always get your game in shape a lot more than what we have been lately. We have to do that. We've got three games. It's the perfect opportunity for us to get our game where we want it to be for Game 1, whether it's in San Jose or Anaheim."
That inability to move in the standings might be a blessing for coach Darryl Sutter's squad.
With no threat of falling and no pressure to secure home-ice advantage, Sutter has the ability to rest defensemen Drew Doughty and Robyn Regehr, who are nursing bumps and bruises and will not play Wednesday against the Flames.
"From a coaching standpoint, we're being cautious with the guys that are banged up," Sutter said. "We'd do it anyways. We're pretty much a four-line, six-D team. We've done it the last two games where you're not really looking at the special team part of it, where you're giving guys the opportunity to play on it, play in those situations and try to play as much 5-on-5 as you can and roll it."
Here are the projected lineups:
Marian Gaborik – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Dwight King – Jeff Carter – Tyler Toffoli
Tanner Pearson - Jarret Stoll - Dustin Brown
Kyle Clifford - Mike Richards - Trevor Lewis
Jake Muzzin - Slava Voynov
Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez
Andrew Campbell - Matt Greene
Scratched: Jordan Nolan
Injured: Drew Doughty (upper body), Robyn Regehr (undisclosed)
Jiri Hudler - Mike Cammalleri - Paul Byron
Curtis Glencross - Sean Monahan - Joe Colborne
Lance Bouma - Matt Stajan - Brian McGrattan
Bryce Van Brabant - TJ Galiardi - Kevin Westgarth
Mark Giordano - TJ Brodie
Kris Russell - Chris Butler
Chad Billins - Mark Cundari
Scratched: Ben Hanowski, Kenny Agostino, Christopher Breen
Injured: Mikael Backlund (upper body), David Jones (upper body), Markus Granlund (upper body), Ladislav Smid (upper body), Tyler Wotherspoon (shoulder), Dennis Wideman (upper body).