A victory by the Kings over the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday night at Staples Center — whether in regulation, overtime or shootout — will ensure the Kings of the third seed in the Pacific division and their fifth consecutive playoff appearance.
There was a time, not too long ago, when clinching a playoff spot was a big deal for the Kings. But after winning the Stanley Cup in 2012 and advancing to the West finals last season it’s a start, not the endgame.
“It would be one goal that we’ve accomplished that we said before the season, obviously, is making the playoffs,” center Anze Kopitar said after the Kings’ morning skate in El Segundo.
“We’ve been in that third spot in our division for forever. It really was pretty much the whole season. But it’s nice to have fate in your own hands, and with a win tonight put everything away, all the calculations and everything. It’s a division game, which is obviously huge. We know them. They know us. So I’m sure they’re going to be fired up.”
The No. 3 team in the Pacific will play the No. 2 team, which could be the Ducks or the San Jose Sharks. Kopitar said he looks at the standings closely “once in a while.” He added, “In the end of the day, it doesn’t matter. There are good teams that are making the playoffs and if you want to go all the way you’ve got to beat them somewhere, at some point. So if it’s the first round, the second round, it doesn’t really matter. I think we’re focusing as a group here on our game and our preparation toward the playoffs.”
Goaltender Jonathan Quick was the first goalie off the ice after Wednesday's skate, almost always the sign that he will start. Left wing Dwight King, who missed Monday’s game because of an undisclosed injury, practiced on his own Wednesday morning and isn’t expected to play. Jordan Nolan again skated in his place alongside Jarret Stoll and Dustin Brown.
Players were low-key about the possibility of clinching a playoff spot on Wednesday.
“You don’t have that playoff spot until you have that ‘x’ beside your name,” defenseman Drew Doughty said, referring to the symbol commonly placed in the standings before the names of teams that have clinched postseason berths.
“We want to clinch and if we do clinch that third spot, we kind of know where we stand. We know two of the teams we could possibly face. We know we’ll start on the road. And I would rather start at home, obviously, but I don’t mind starting on the road. If you can steal one game on the road and come back home and have two in a row at home, I think you’re sitting pretty good.
“Either way, tonight’s a big game. Phoenix is a really good team. And they’re desperate. They’re fighting for points to get in right now. So we know that they’re going to play a playoff-style hockey game and it’s good to get into those types of games before playoffs actually start.”
Courtesy of Kings public relations guru Jeremy Zager, here’s how the Kings can clinch Wednesday:
—If Kings win in regulation: Kings would have 96 points and 37 regulation/overtime wins, known as ROW (the most points Phoenix could then get is 95);
—If Kings win in overtime: Kings would have 96 points and 37 ROW (the most points Phoenix could get is 96 with 35 ROW);
—If Kings win in shootout: Kings would have 96 points and 36 ROW (the most points Phoenix could get is 96 with 35 ROW).
Also, the club announced that tickets for the first three home games of Round 1 of the playoffs would go on sale Saturday at 10 a.m. Tickets may be purchased online.
Some tickets may be released in the days leading up to a game. Fans can sign up for notification of released tickets at the Kings' website.