EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — In preparation for a third playoff game in four days, Monday was a day of rest first and reflection second for the Los Angeles Kings, who trail the Chicago Blackhawks, 2-0, in the Western Conference finals.
“It’s taxing on the guys, for sure it is, with all the travel they have,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said.
He noted that the team had returned from Chicago in the middle of the night after Sunday night’s 4-2 loss. “Today, you’re just trying to get it close to full again,” he said.
Although none of the Kings’ regulars skated in practice, they worked hard, reviewing game footage in an effort to surmount their deficit as well as the offensive struggles of their marquee players.
The top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams has combined for just 18 points in 16 playoff games. That relative lack of production has contributed to more than half of the Kings’ playoff games ending in 2-1 scores.
In Game 2, Sutter’s club had advantages in shots on goal, shots attempted, faceoffs won, penalties drawn and hits. Nevertheless, seemingly every error ended up in their net as they fell behind, 4-0, on the way to losing, 4-2.
Sutter said a turnaround was a matter of making small adjustments, pushing through some nagging injuries and getting more from each individual player.
“We’re not a team that gets ahead of ourselves or down on ourselves or up on ourselves or listens to what somebody else says,” Sutter said. “Just keep it in there, stay among ourselves, and it doesn’t matter if we’re up two or down two.”
Brown and Williams pointed to play in the neutral zone, where the Kings have lacked speed and puck security against the positionally sound, opportunistic Blackhawks. Brown said an emphasis on limiting transition opportunities for the swift Chicago counterattack would be critical Tuesday in Game 3.
“Making them go 200 feet for all their chances will go a long way,” Brown said.
On their path to the Stanley Cup last season, the Kings encountered no significant injuries and had their full complement of players essentially throughout the playoffs.
This year, the Kings spent much of the season filling the void left by injuries on defense before having their formidable depth up the middle tested by injuries in the playoffs.
Center Jarret Stoll missed six games of a conference semifinal series with San Jose after he suffered a concussion. Center Mike Richards, the NHL’s leading playoff scorer the past three postseasons, was sidelined for Game 2 with a likely concussion. Regardless of the truth to murmurs about the diminished health of top center, Kopitar, he has been mired in a scoring funk that has challenged the Kings offensively.
“There’s a lot of good components that go into being a Stanley Cup-winning team, and the first one is being a healthy team,” Williams said. “But good teams find ways to win through adversity and build through that.”