LOS ANGELES — Friday’s morning skate didn’t have a feeling of desperation.
The Los Angeles Kings, needing only one win at home to eliminate the Chicago Blackhawks and advance to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second time in three years, approached practice before Game 6 as though it was a morning skate ahead a midseason game.
But that’s a good thing: Head coach Darryl Sutter has drilled it into the teams’ minds that every game should be played as if it’s an elimination game.
"This group, we’ve been through everything as a group and we’ve faced different types of challenges so our approach to every game is pretty much the same, as silly as that sounds sometimes," said Kings’ captain Dustin Brown. "This is no different than being down in a series. It’s just about going out and playing our game."
The game plan in Game 6 is all about puck possession and management. The speed of the Blackhawks isn’t necessarily an element that L.A. can match and they don’t want to turn the game into a track meet. The speed experiment in San Jose ended disastrously in Game 2 of the opening round of the playoffs and it was an early reminder that the Kings need to play the game that got them there in the first place.
"Puck management: That’s the key to our game," Brown said. "Checking their top players, checking all their players and controlling the puck, making good decisions with the puck. When we do that, our style of play — the grind, the cycling, all that stuff — it allows us to do that and play the game that we want to play."
The Kings’ mindset of playing every game like it’s a Game 7 lends itself to the desperation factor, the key intangible in a game where elimination is on the line.
"Anytime you have a team on the brink of elimination you’re going to get their best," said forward Justin Williams. "We need to make sure that we match the desperation that they set out there and then forge ahead."
Other morning skate notes:
— Much like the last time they were in L.A., the Blackhawks did not take the morning skate and will instead hold media availability prior to the game.
— Kings’ defenseman Robyn Regehr is continuing to skate with the team in morning skates but still says his knee is not quite ready for game action.
— As they are known to do, the Blackhawks threw a few curveballs at the Kings in Game 5, one of which was the line of Patrick Kane, Brandon Saad and Andrew Shaw. Saad was unstoppable, netting nearly every pass he saw from Kane, who had been struggling up to that point. Shaw was a spark plug, bringing a new energy to the line and it changed the defensive game plan the Kings had previously had for containing Kane.
"We’ve got to be a lot better on that line," said defenseman Jake Muzzin. "They had too much time and space. If you give Kane and Saad room they’re pretty skilled guys, so we have to have some better gaps on them in the rush and play harder on them."
— Brown might be a New Yorker, but that doesn’t mean a part of him was pulling for the Rangers to win in the Eastern Conference finals. The Ithaca, N.Y., native, didn’t really like bandwagoners growing up.
"Everyone was a Ranger fan in upstate New York so I tend to not like the Rangers just to be different," he said. "I started to like Vancouver because they played them in ’94."