Facing elimination for the fifth time in the playoffs this spring, the Kings on Wednesday appeared calm after their morning skate at Staples Center in advance of Game 6 of their NHL Western Conference semifinal series against the Ducks.
They didn’t do any line rushes, a practice that has become more common around the NHL because it conceals the lineup from the opposing coaches or media, at least for a few hours. And injured defensemen Willie Mitchell and Robyn Regehr didn’t participate, so there’s not likely to be any last-second help for the Kings’ battered defensive corps.
In most ways, it was like any other morning skate — except that a loss Wednesday night will end the Kings’ season.
“I think it’s in the back of your mind but your approach — and our team’s approach — is no different than it was in Game 1,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “It’s just the situation is different.”
Quite different from Game 1, though identical to the win-or-go-home predicament in which they found themselves after losing the first three games to San Jose in the first round.
They believe they can win Wednesday night at Staples Center — where they lost Games 3 and 4 of this series — and take their season to a seventh game Friday at Anaheim, and beyond.
“We need to eliminate the easy goals we’re giving up, on turnovers especially,” Brown said. “We scored last game, but it’s really hard to win a game when you give up four.”
Defenseman Matt Greene agreed the Kings must clean up the defensive errors that contributed to their 4-3 loss to the Ducks in Game 5 but that there were no real secrets to what they must do to prolong their season.
“Less defensive zone play, less opportunities for those guys to get,” Greene said. “More offensive zone time for us. Pretty standard stuff.”
He also said the Kings must have “urgency coming out right off the drop of the puck. We’re backed in a corner. We should show it tonight.”
Center Anze Kopitar said the Kings play their best hockey when they’re desperate and must ratchet up their emotions without getting carried away and being overaggressive.
“I think the guys in here, we realize what it is, the desperation level and stupidity,” Kopitar said. “We’re going to go out there and play hard and we’ll see what happens.”
The Ducks, meanwhile, remained confident but not cocky. Defenseman Ben Lovejoy said his team was fully aware that the Kings have been pushed to the brink before and prevailed.
“We need to come out with our best game. We know they’re going to come out with theirs,” he said. “It is a ton of pressure. There’s nothing like an elimination game for both teams. They’re doing to be ultra-desperate. A normal team will be nervous, but I don’t think the Kings will be.”
We’ll find out Wednesday night, with puck drop scheduled for about 6:45 Pacific time.