LOS ANGELES — At least for now, the Kings still have one more game.
The prospects might look bleak facing elimination by the San Jose Sharks, Thursday night at the Staples Center, but so long as the Kings don’t get ahead of themselves they still have a fighting chance.
"It’s one of those things where you just think about tonight’s game," said captain Dustin Brown. "You can’t think about winning four, it’s about winning one. That’s our focus. It starts with just getting the one."
The good news is that the team did see improvements in nearly every facet of Tuesday game 3. Defensively, the team got back to its typical, gritty, staunch playing style. The top players were able to break free from the Sharks’ grasp and play in a manor they were expected to.
Marian Gaborik scored and Jeff Carter continued his hot postseason with a goal to give him a point in each of the three games.
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"We know that our leaders need to step up and lead the way and everyone else needs to follow," said defenseman Drew Doughty.
Doughty was outspoken about each moment of Thursday’s game being a crucial one.
"Every single shift, every single second matters," Doughty said. "You can’t take a second off because that’s the second that matters, it’s the difference between a goal against or a goal for. There’s been times where guys have taken shifts off and that goes down the entire lineup and that’s been the reason why they’re beating us."
Mentally, the Kings must toe the line between playing with a sense of desperation and playing relaxed.
"It’s a fine line," Doughty said. "I think maybe they’ve played a little more desperate in the first three games and that’s why they’ve won all three. Now it’s our turn to play desperate."
Other morning skate notes
– Anze Kopitar was named one of three finalists for the Selke Trophy, the award for the top defensive forward in the league, as voted by the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association. Along with Kopitar is Boston’s Patrice Bergeron and Chicago’s Jonathan Toews
However, while honored to be in the running, it wasn’t at the forefront of his mind just hours before a crucial elimination game.
"It’s really nice to be nominated, obviously, but right now it’s not the time to think about that," Kopitar said. "I’ll think about that when it’s all said and done."
– Kings head coach Darryl Sutter felt the choice of Kopitar as a finalist brought some much-needed attention to the West Coast hockey clubs. San Jose’s Patrick Marleau is a finalist for the Lady Byng trophy, Anaheim’s Ryan Getzlaf is an MVP candidate and Kings goaltender Jonathan Quick recently won the Jennings Trophy.
"The other part of that, I was just thinking about that, is it’s good to see California recognized," Sutter said. "Kopitar, Marleau, Getzlaf has to be (in consideration for) MVP, Quick, Jennings (Trophy). So think about that. When you put it all together, that’s pretty good."