Kings’ McNabb on Stadium Series: ‘It’s a must-win for us’
The last time Brayden McNabb played in an outdoor game, the score was a lopsided 11-2. And no, McNabb wasn’t on the team that scored 11 goals.
"It was a really good environment," he said. "Minus us losing 11-2."
In the Bay Area this week, 11 goals isn’t necessarily what the Kings are aiming for. In Saturday’s Stadium Series game at the San Francisco 49ers new Levi’s Stadium, the magic number is only two: Two points.
It’s not often that a game with such hoopla ends up being a game of great magnitude, but with the Kings only two points behind Saturday’s opponent, Pacific Division rival San Jose, one win is all that separates the Kings from a playoff spot.
And that’s really the bottom line.
"We’ve played really well for the last three weeks here and we’re just trying to continue it," said Kings’ coach Darryl Sutter. "It’s a business schedule. It’s a road game for us and we have to play it like that."
— LA Kings (@LAKings) February 21, 2015
Don’t look now but Los Angeles, owners of one of the most dismal road records in the NHL (No. 27, 8-12-6) are suddenly surging. The Kings come into the Stadium Series game having won six-straight and three on the road. And as much as they want to prepare for this game like any other, it’s a little more difficult given the conditions.
The ice quality is not spectacular, and given the proximity to the lower portion of the San Francisco bay, it’s a little muggier than last year’s game. Both teams had an opportunity to test the ice, running through full line rushes and going through morning drills Friday night.
"The ice kind of got pretty rough halfway through," McNabb said. "It’s pretty heavy out there shooting and stick-handling, but it’s something that we’re going to have to adjust to."
You could say that the Kings come in with an advantage over the Sharks, given the fact that only two current Sharks players have played in outdoor game and 15 players on L.A.’s current roster skated in last year’s Stadium Series game. Add in Marian Gaborik, who has played in a Winter Classic, and that’s a lot more experience on outdoor ice.
They’ve played the odd caroms off the boards, learned how to track the puck in the lights and how to effectively stay hydrated playing in a much higher temperature than normal.
But given the fact that the Kings scored exactly zero goals against the Anaheim Ducks in last year’s outdoor game, you could also make the argument that they don’t quite have that whole outdoor ice thing figured out.
"You’ve just got to keep it simple in outdoor games," McNabb said. "It won’t be a fancy game by any means."
On the eve of another Stadium Series game, it’s a little quieter for the visitors. Last year’s game was so unique in that it pitted two local teams against one another, but it also led to far more distractions with the fanfare that accompanied it.
Only a few families traveled to this game and some didn’t even participate in the family skate. It’s a fun weekend, and the Kings will enjoy every moment of this rare opportunity, but they’ll enjoy it much more if they leave with a win.
"It’s obviously a big thing, with the EPIX thing too for the last month. But you kind of just go and play," McNabb said. "Tomorrow will be a great experience, but it comes down to getting two points. It’s a must-win for us."