The Los Angeles Kings still find themselves locked in a battle for the fourth seed in the Western Conference and the right to home ice advantage in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Entering Saturday’s games, Los Angeles is tied with San Jose, and both teams hold a slim one-point lead over the St. Louis Blues who have a game in hand.
With home-ice advantage being so critical, the Kings got a welcome addition to their line-up Thursday night, with the return of defenseman Matt Greene. Greene, who hasn’t played since the first game of the season when he suffered a back injury that required surgery, instantly returns the Kings top six defenseman to arguably one of the best in the Conference if not the entire NHL as they look to defend the title as Stanley Cup Champions.
Greene’s presence was not only missed on the ice, whether it was blocking a shot or making the opposition pay the price in front of the net trying to score a goal. Off the ice, Greene is a vocal leader in the lockeroom.
“We missed him this season. We are happy and glad to have him back, said Kings forward Jarret Stoll. “He’s a great person to have in the dressing room and around the guys. He’ll do anything to win. Whether it is blocking a key shot, with his leg, his body, you name it. He’ll do whatever it takes to win and that’s how you win in the playoffs when you have guys like that.”
Coach Darryl Sutter eased Greene back into the lineup on Thursday, playing him just over 16 minutes, and Greene didn’t seem to miss a beat as he lead all defenseman in hits with five.
“I asked him after how he felt and he said he felt good. So that’s basically what I was looking for, was how he felt,” said Sutter.
“It’s been a while. It’s good to get hit, good to give a few hits and get the first game over with, said Greene following Thursday’s game. “It’s fun. That’s the best way to get into it. Get that playoff atmosphere right away. They’re battling for points, and we are too, so it’s a good game to get into.”
The Kings now find themselves with two days off, before resuming play Sunday night (at 6 p.m. on FOX Sports West) at Staples Center against the Dallas Stars. Dallas is fighting hard for the eighth and final playoff spot and has made life miserable for the Kings this season winning three of the four previous contests and dominating LA on the score sheet by a 14-6 margin.
So Sunday night should be nothing short of a playoff atmosphere.
“They’re battling to get in. We’re battling for home ice. I mean, it’s going to be that atmosphere from here on out,” said Greene.