Kings in 'good place' as they prepare for Sharks rematch

Kings Coach Darryl Sutter needed a moment to digest all that’s transpired since his team  last played the San Jose Sharks

That says a lot considering Sutter’s assessments are usually delivered deadpan. To recap: The Kings lost goalie Jonathan Quick after the first period of the season opener at San Jose, subsequently used three other goalies and also sustained injuries to Anze Kopitar, Brayden McNabb and Andy Andreoff.

“It goes fast,” Sutter said.

So fast that the sky never fell for the Kings. They’re in the thick of the Pacific Division race behind goalie Peter Budaj as San Jose comes to Staples Center on Wednesday in a rematch that hardly will resemble the teams’  season opener.  

“Losing Quickie isn’t ideal, but that’s the way the game is sometimes,” Tyler Toffoli said. “We had a rough stretch there at the start of the year, but we’ve grown and we’ve been working on our game and we’re in a good place right now.”

The NHL’s condensed schedule finally found a good place for the Kings. They got three days off following their win last Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks and will put their five-game winning streak on the line against the Sharks, who will be playing  their second game in as many nights. 

But Sutter immediately pointed to San Jose when asked about staying relevant in the division despite their injury crises. He holds to the notion that the champion is the champion until they’re not.

“They’re the favorite,” Sutter said. “They went to the Stanley Cup Final last year. They were a [near] 100-point team, all that stuff. They’re a veteran team. They have, probably, the most veteran defense in the NHL. We have a lot of respect for them and we know it’s in the division.”

Toffoli turned the page on last season, when San Jose eliminated the Kings in the first round of the playoffs. But the 2-1 loss in the season opener didn’t escape his memory.

“It’s a new year,” Toffoli said. “They beat us the first game of the year, so it’s time that we owe them.”

Budaj’s mask 

Budaj has the image of Ned Flanders from “The Simpsons” television show painted on his mask, which screams for a backstory.

His former equipment manager with the Colorado Avalanche, Terry Geer, likened the affable Budaj to the cheery, well-meaning Flanders character, so Budaj and his mask artist went with it.

“He called me ‘Ned,’ I think, because I was always happy and smiling,” Budaj said. “I’m not even close to as good as [Flanders] is in the [show], because he’s a perfect guy. I’ve made a lot of mistakes in my life, but he just called me that.”

Budaj actually isn’t a huge fan of the show but has seen enough to be familiar with it.

“It’s pretty funny,” he said. “It’s like ‘Family Guy,’ but before that.”

NEXT UP

VS. SAN JOSE

When: 7:30 p.m.

On the air: TV: NBCSN; Radio: 790

Update: McNabb (broken collarbone) skated on his own Tuesday and Sutter said he’s at least a month away. Sharks center Tomas Hertl (knee) has been out since Nov. 17.

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