Sports

No place like home (to lose) in this series

Anaheim DucksLos Angeles KingsSportsIce HockeyTrips and VacationsTravelStaples Center

The Ducks and Kings continue to make hay in each other's barn.

There may be no rhyme or reason, but the Ducks' 2-0 victory Saturday at Staples Center in Game 4 left the visiting teams undefeated in the Western Conference semifinals.

The Kings got away with a theft at Honda Center in Game 1 and did it again in Game 2. The Ducks pulled off their own home invasion at Staples Center on Thursday, taking Game 3.

Goaltender John Gibson's 28- save performance sent the Ducks home with the series tied, 2-2. But is going back Anaheim a good thing for them?

The road is supposed to be a difficult in the Stanley Cup playoffs. This grind has been more like coffee beans than teeth. Through four games, it has been nothing but home-sweat-home in the series Southern California hockey fans have waited for since 1993-94.

"I don't know why," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said.

The Ducks' Corey Perry was just as unclear, saying, "You got me."

Leave it to a veteran to suggest an answer.

"This is not a normal road trip," Ducks forward Teemu Selanne said. "We're so close to home, it's easier. We're not having to deal with different time zones. We get more recovery and can do normal stuff rather than worry about what time our flight is."

The only travel stress would be traffic.

"Naw, we get to take the carpool lane," Kings center Anze Kopitar said. "It's 40 minutes to Anaheim."

East Coast teams have had this perk for years. New Jersey, in fact, never left the Eastern time zone in winning the Stanley Cup in 1995.

The close proximity to teams in the East has at times nullified some of the home-ice advantage.

The New York Islanders and New York Rangers have played 33 playoff games, with the visiting team winning 19. The New Jersey Devils and Philadelphia Flyers have played 28 playoff games, with the visitor winning 18.

Ducks forward Andrew Cogliano said this series "feels different." Both teams have stayed in hotels near Honda Center and Staples Center the night before games. But, as Cogliano said, the teams "just drive down the road."

As can their fans.

"You get a little crowd support," Cogliano said.

Well, the Kings did in Anaheim.

"We could hear our fans on ice, every time we scored," Doughty said. "You could hear the chants they have for certain players. It was great being in their arena."

Ducks fans didn't brave the trip to Los Angeles, not in great numbers anyway.

"We could not hear their fans [Thursday]," Doughty said. "That's a plus too."

Except the Ducks won. They did again Saturday, leaving them 4-0 in Staples Center this season.

"We made a conscious effort to be good in L.A. this year," Ducks defenseman Ben Lovejoy said.

As they did at home. Only Boston (31) had more home victories than the Ducks (29) during the regular season.

That didn't matter when this series started.

"Obviously it's nice thing to be at home when you're on the road," Kopitar said. "You don't have to jump on the plane and fly for two, three hours, which is pretty common in the Western Conference."

The real benefit from the commuter series is to come.

West Coast teams have racked up frequent-flyer miles during the playoffs. This season, either the Ducks or the Kings will had a week or so vacation from that grind.

The Kings, in particular, have had it easy on the travel front. They opened the playoffs with San Jose, an hour away by air.

"Last year, we had 4 1/2 -hour flights in two of our series," Brown said. "That definitely wears on you. The team that advances from this series is going to be fresh.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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