Desperate Hockey Teams, Part II.
The other entry in the three-way battle between Minnesota, Phoenix and Dallas for two wild-card playoff spots in the Western Conference, the Coyotes, visits the Kings on Wednesday night.
It's no coincidence that Minnesota and Phoenix are the only teams to beat the Kings this season when the Kings led after two periods. They both did so in March with the Wild rallying for a 3-2 win Monday night.
"It's hard but you just have to realize the desperation of teams," Kings center Mike Richards said. "Last night Minnesota came out and you could see right from the get-go they were flying around pretty good.
"I don't know if it caught us off guard but I just don't think we matched that until later in the first [period] and it kind of tailed off near the end. It's just an understanding how teams are going to play against us that need points and we have to be ready for that."
The Kings are perceptive enough to acknowledge that their status in the Pacific Division is part of the equation. They are locked in third place and desperation would be the last word they would use about the stretch run.
Limbo might be more accurate.
They have six games remaining, two at home and four on the road. Oftentimes, the grind of a recent trip will catch a team in its second game back at home, not the first. The Kings beat Winnipeg, 4-2, on Saturday at Staples Center.
"I thought we were really flat," Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said of the Minnesota game. "I think it caught up with us. We played good enough to win, good enough to lose. We weren't sharp early and that was the difference in the game.
"…Last night, some of our younger guys that have to bring some energy and do a little bit more in games like that didn't."
Later, Sutter talked about the coach-player dynamic, stressing the importance of relationships in the modern game. Generally, the Kings, are fairly low-key.
"I have zero tolerance for these guys that are high-low all the time. Zero. Not just players," Sutter said. "Anger is not a good emotion to have. It's more: 'Be real and figure it out.' Get going again."
Dwight King was on the ice again Tuesday morning but didn't put a timetable on his return to the lineup. King missed Monday's game against the Wild because of an unspecified injury. It was understood not to be serious.
"Right now, it just wasn't worth it," King said. "I'm fortunate we do have these two weeks here [before the playoffs] … trying to get myself back to where I feel I can help the team. That's my main goal. Not going to put a date or game in mind."
Two collegiate forwards signed entry-level contracts with the Kings.
Michael Mersch (Wisconsin) signed a three-year deal, and Nic Dowd (St. Cloud State) a one-year deal. Dowd, a seventh-round draft pick in 2009, had 40 points in 38 games this season at St. Cloud (Minn).
Mersch had 22 goals and 35 points in 37 games at Wisconsin. He was a fourth-round selection in 2011. Both will report to the Kings' AHL minor league affiliate in Manchester, N.H.
KINGS VS. PHOENIX
On the air: TV: NBCSN; Radio: 1150.
Etc.: The Coyotes have been playing reasonably well with Thomas Griess in goal in the aftermath of what could have been a devastating loss of starting goalie Mike Smith. Smith suffered an apparent knee injury, according to reports, and the Coyotes hope to get him back before the end of the regular season.