Greetings from Calgary, where the Kings' playoff hopes will be on the line Thursday night when they face the Flames.
In essence, a regulation loss will eliminate the Kings from the playoffs, though they have a small chance to get in if they get a point Thursday by losing in overtime or a shootout and Winnipeg gets no points in its game against Colorado. For the Flames, a win means a playoff berth for the first time since 2009, and a local TV morning show reported that tickets for Thursday's game were selling for $700 on the secondary market.
This is a case of cutting things a bit too close even for the Kings, who have made an art form of qualifying for the playoffs in the final few days of the regular season and last season proved their poise under pressure by going 7-0 in elimination games during the playoffs. It seems likely their experience in such situations would help them Thursday, but Coach Darryl Sutter, in his usual blunt manner, resisted reporters' attempts to overanalyze the circumstances.
"Just got to win a game," Sutter said after the team's morning skate at the Scotiabank Saddledome. "A lot of the questions that get asked, you've got to win a game. It's got nothing to do with anything else. That's all."
Sutter also said it didn't matter how the Kings got into this dire situation. "You could say we should have 100 points if we had won more shootouts. You could say lots of different things," he said. "It's just about winning a game."
It's also about being in a position they never expected to be in.
"It is a little bit surprising," defenseman Jake Muzzin said. "We obviously shouldn't have let it come to this, but we're in this situation now and we're going to need everyone's best effort tonight and the following night [Saturday] and give ourselves a chance."
The Kings close the regular season at home against the San Jose Sharks at noon Saturday.
After a long season and 64 playoff games over the past three seasons, do the Kings have one comeback left in them?
"I believe we do," Muzzin said. "We definitely have the group in here to do it. We're going to need everyone to believe and to give that extra desire and desperation tonight and the following game."
But there's a question as to whether they have enough left physically to play the hard-hitting game that usually brings them success. They've scored only three goals in their last two games -- losses at Vancouver and Edmonton -- and after the Edmonton defeat, center Anze Kopitar noted a lack of vigor. "I just didn't think we had enough energy, enough jump," he told The Times' Lisa Dillman.
Kings captain Dustin Brown wasn't buying that. "I guess it's different from guy to guy. I feel fine," he said. "At this time of year, that shouldn't really come into play, in my opinion."
Muzzin agreed. "Everyone plays the same amount of games and the same travel. Being tired is no excuse," he said. "Everyone has to dig down a little deeper and find that extra oomph for the games coming up."
If they don't, they'll have a very long summer to rest.