Kings move closer to second divisional title

Kings move closer to second divisional title

Published Apr. 3, 2012 12:04 a.m. ET

High in the rafters above the west end of Staples Center
hangs the legacy of the Los Angeles Lakers: 11 championship banners, a banner
depicting the Minneapolis Lakers' NBA titles, and seven retired jerseys.

Adjacent to the Lakers' display is a smaller though prominent depiction of the
Los Angeles Kings' history. Above the five retired numbers — Rogie Vachon's 30,
Marcel Dionne's 16, Dave Taylor's 18, Wayne Gretzky's 99 and Luc Robitaille's
20 — are the Kings' two lone banners. One marks the 1993 Campbell Conference
championship; the other represents the 1991 Smythe Division title.

Los Angeles has won its division once in 43 seasons. The Kings haven't finished
as high as second place since 1999-00.

Their checkered history is on the verge of adding a significant upgrade.

By taking care of business with a 2-0 shutout victory over the Edmonton Oilers
Monday night, the Kings moved two points ahead of Phoenix, three points ahead of
San Jose and four points in front of Dallas atop the Pacific Division with two
games remaining. The Coyotes, Sharks and Stars still have three remaining games

"Home ice is huge, but we're worried about next game, and I'm sure San
Jose's thinking the same thing," defenseman Matt Greene said, referencing
Thursday's battle against the Sharks (Prime Ticket / 7:30 p.m. PT). "I'm
sure Phoenix and Dallas are thinking the same thing right now. I don't know
what the math is, but everybody wants to gobble up points and get in the
playoffs, and that's what we're working on right now."

As has been the trend through the entire season, Jonathan Quick provided the
backbone of the team's efforts, stopping all 19 shots for his NHL-leading and
franchise-record 10th shutout of the season. He wasn't tested as much Edmonton
goalie Devan Dubnyk (35 saves), but did more than enough to provide more
ammunition for his Vezina Trophy campaign. ... though individual accolades aren't
incredibly important to him.

"I don't look, so I don't know," Quick said about his name standing
atop the shutout list. "I guess it's an honor to be up there. To credit
how well this team has played, look at my last two shutouts, 19 shots each
game, maybe, and not too many quality chances. The team is making it a lot
easier on me and it goes a long way."

By nearly doubling Edmonton in shots on goal, Los Angeles dictated the cadence
of the game and didn't find itself having to make too many adjustments as the
game progressed. Though a scoreless tie bled into the third period, it was
still an upbeat Kings locker room which expected the result they eventually

"I think we were doing a lot of things that we wanted to do, and I think
it's a confident group right now," Greene said about the team's efforts
through two periods. "You know it's only a matter of time … where guys are
going to score, we're going to get through, we're going to get that goal."

Jeff Carter wasn't available for the third consecutive game due to a deep bone
bruise in his ankle, and while his presence would certainly have helped spread
the Oilers' thin defense, Los Angeles instead relied on two rookies to provide
the scoring, something they've found a knack for recently. Slava Voynov's
one-timer from the right point was the defenseman's eighth goal and 20th point
in 52 games, while Dwight King supplied his fifth of the season with less than
three minutes remaining for valuable insurance.  

"Slava's a stud," Greene said. "It seems like he gets us points
whenever we need them. He never scores the fifth goal or anything like that.
It's always the go-ahead or the tying goal or the winning goal."

While it's still awfully close to feel any inkling of comfort, the Kings
control their own destiny and will head into Thursday and Saturday's
home-and-home with San Jose full of confidence.

"Considering where we were two, three weeks ago, I think we would gladly
take where we are right now," defenseman Rob Scuderi said. "We had a
good winning streak, and we got ourselves in a better position of getting two
of the last three games at home. As an athlete, the only one you ever want it
to be on is you. It's on us as a team to perform now and get ourselves

NOTES: Edmonton coach Tom Renney: "Well, they're good at home and
again they're a desperate team and they're certainly going to stick to their
game plan and hope that their opponent, us in this case, makes the odd mistake
to give them a chance and that's what we did." ... 
Los Angeles' 11 shutouts is a club record. ...  The Kings
are 9-2-1 in their last 12 games.  ...  Los Angeles has
allowed two goals or less in 53 of 80 games this season. ...  Monday's crowd of 18,118 was the 36th sellout of the season, a
new Staples Center record. ...  Darryl Sutter, on Carter's
ankle: "They're not going to amputate, I don't think."