Kings control destiny without leaving California
To put it in the simplest terms, the Kings are right where most teams would like to be with three games remaining in the season. If they win their remaining games, they win their division.
It's not quite that simple, though. The Kings are coming off a tough four-game road trip, which ended Saturday night with a 4-3 shootout loss to Minnesota. That was followed by a long flight home and, after one day for some rest, the Kings face a home game against an Edmonton team that has played them tough this season.
Conventional wisdom has held that it will take about 94 points to secure a playoff spot in the Western Conference. The Kings have 91 with three games remaining.
"I'm not a philosopher or Nostradamus or nothing," Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. "I can't do any of that stuff. We got our 91st point tonight, and hopefully it's a big one."
The good news for the Kings is that they don't have to leave California again in the regular season. After the game against Edmonton, they finish with a home-and-home set against San Jose.
"That's just up to individuals preparing themselves the right way and taking care of themselves," captain Dustin Brown said. "We've been in a playoff mentality for a few weeks now, and even more so in the last week. We've had a lot of recovery days, which goes a long way when we have a travel schedule like we have had in the last week."
Brown: Improving power play helps confidence
--The Kings weren't patting themselves on the back too hard after Friday's game, when they scored a power-play goal. The Kings had scored only one power-play goal in their previous seven games.
"It still wasn't great," captain Dustin Brown said, "but we found a way to move it around and found a way to get a goal, which I think just breeds confidence for everyone involved in both ends."
Brown might not have been overly impressed, but the Kings did manage some carry-over Saturday. On their first power play of the game against Minnesota, the Kings scored when Brown knocked in the rebound of an Anze Kopitar shot.
--The Kings might not be getting the type of production they want on the power play, but that doesn't mean they haven't been scoring on special teams. In their last 13 games, the Kings have scored a total of five power-play goals and four shorthanded goals. They have nine shorthanded goals this season, and four of them have come from Mike Richards. That's nothing new for Richards, who has 27 shorthanded goals in his career. "The last couple ones I think, have just been fortunate bounces, where it goes off the stick and goes the other way," Richards said.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "First of all, we're disappointed about tonight. No excuses, the trip, nothing like that. We're disappointed. But to take a step back and look at the trip as a whole, I think five out of eight points is about what we needed. Four would have been acceptable, but five or six makes it good. It could have been great. We gave up a point in the shootout there, after giving up the lead. But like I said, all things considered it's not a bad trip for us." -- Kings defenseman Rob Scuderi.
--RW Jeff Carter missed a second consecutive game because of an ankle injury suffered Wednesday night in Calgary. Carter is scheduled to undergo an MRI exam on Monday when the team returns to Los Angeles, and it's not likely that he will play in that night's game against Edmonton. Carter has 21 goals and 13 assists in 55 games this season, as he has split time between the Kings and Columbus. Once again, LW Brad Richardson took Carter's spot in the lineup.
--D Matt Greene plays the type of stay-at-home defense that doesn't always get a lot of attention. Greene had two assists in Friday's victory over Edmonton, but coach Darryl Sutter was more impressed with Greene's defensive game. Greene was a big part of the reason the Kings limited the Oilers to 14 shots, the lowest total for any Kings opponent this season. Sutter had praise for Greene, after being critical of Greene's play of late.
"Guys like that have to have an identity. He was better at it the last two nights," Sutter said. "He's got to be a physical guy, a simple guy."
--G Jonathan Bernier got the start Saturday night, and was hoping to build off his previous game against Minnesota. Bernier has one shutout in 16 starts this season, and it came on Feb. 28 in St. Paul, when Bernier stopped all 26 shots to beat the Wild. That wasn't the only reason that Bernier was the obvious starter. G Jonathan Quick was coming off three games in the previous five days, and after Friday night's game in Edmonton, the Kings arrived in Minnesota at 3 a.m. Saturday. Things didn't go Bernier's way this time, as he allowed three goals on 23 shots and went 0 for 2 in the shootout.