Milan Lucic says missing playoffs last season inspired Kings to make the most of this one

Milan Lucic wasn't around for the Kings' bitter end in April, the struggles on the road, in overtimes and in shootouts.

But he might as well have been.

Boston, two years removed from reaching the Stanley Cup Final, was a bit like Kings East, failing to meet expectations and missing the playoffs last season. The Bruins had been Lucic's only NHL team until he was traded to the Kings in June.

"I can relate, too, with us losing out in the last one or two games with Boston, not making the playoffs," Lucic said. "That was definitely something we [the Kings] talked about coming into this season, using that as motivation. Not repeating what happened last year."

That's why the just-completed 4-0 trip through division rivals — starting at Arizona — was such a point of emphasis for the Kings. They won their last three games against Vancouver, Edmonton and Calgary, outscoring their opponents by a combined 14-3.

Lucic had an assist at Vancouver and scored a prototypical hard-working goal, in front, against the Flames to give the Kings a 2-0 lead.

"They talked a lot here about how they weren't very good in their division and that's what cost them a playoff spot," Lucic said Thursday night after the 4-1 win in Calgary. "To use that as motivation going into this game and this road trip has worked well for us.

"We've got to keep proving it to ourselves, our teammates and the fans: that we're the real deal and want to get back to being a championship team."

The Kings' run is even more impressive considering they did most of it without Jeff Carter, who suffered an upper-body injury on the opening faceoff in Arizona.

Carter took part in practice Friday at El Segundo but has been limited in what he has been able to do and is unlikely to return to action against the Philadelphia Flyers on Saturday afternoon. "I'll see how it goes the next couple of days," Carter said Friday.

The effort to replace Carter's production has been spread out.

"Obviously, Carts, his caliber of player is tough to replace," Lucic said. "He's such an important part of this team. You have to be team tough and injuries happen in the course of the season and guys need to step up.

"You saw what happened in Edmonton. [The Kings' third line] had eight points in Edmonton and Andy [Andreoff] scores a big goal tonight [in Calgary]. You need that in the course of the season if you want to end up on top."

Defenseman Drew Doughty thinks the Kings, 11 points up on second-place Arizona in the Pacific Division, are "just going to continue to get better and better.

"We can't relax for any moment even though we have this big lead right now," he said. "We need to continue to get a bigger gap."

Winning the division has been a longstanding goal.

"Every year I've been here we haven't done it," Doughty said. "But like I said, we can't get too comfortable because right when you start getting comfortable, that's when you start going backward and you start losing games."

Then there are the rivalDucks,who have shown signs of turning around their underachieving season. They could become a factor in the division race.

"I'd be surprised if they don't make the playoffs," Doughty said.

UP NEXT

VS. PHILADELPHIA

When: Saturday, 1 p.m.

On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.

Update: Chris VandeVelde and Michael Del Zotto are expected to play against the Kings, according to the Flyers' official Twitter feed. Del Zotto has been out since suffering an upper-body injury Dec. 21. VandeVelde was shaken up after a big hit from the San Jose's Brent Burns on Wednesday. The Flyers, on an extended trip, practiced Friday in El Segundo after skating Thursday at a rink in Santa Barbara.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

Times correspondent Curtis Zupke contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
A version of this article appeared in print on January 02, 2016, in the Sports section of the Los Angeles Times with the headline "Failure has been a great motivator - KINGS REPORT" — Today's paperToday's paper | Subscribe
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