Having home-ice advantage in the playoffs, as the Kings will enjoy over the San Jose Sharks when their second-round playoff series begins Tuesday night at Staples Center, will be a new experience for a team that’s not accustomed to that kind of luxury.
As the No. 8-seeded team in the West last season the Kings started all four series on the road during their Stanley Cup run. As the No. 5-seeded team this season, they Kings started on the road in their first-round series against No. 4 St. Louis this spring. They overcame the supposed disadvantage and became the first team to win five consecutive playoff series in which they played Game 1 on the road.
Looking at the bigger picture, no Kings team has had home-ice advantage since 1992, a span of 16 straight series.
Although this will be a new wrinkle for the Kings, they shouldn’t be thrown off-stride. They will take a 10-game home winning streak into Tuesday’s game, including a three-game playoff home win streak. That equals a club record previously done eight times.
Players said Tuesday that having home-ice advantage won’t lead them to relax or in any way change how they approach this series against the No. 6 Sharks.
“You’ve got to win everywhere to win,” center Colin Fraser said. “All season long we talked about having home ice and it came down to the last day of the season and we didn’t get it, but we get it in this round. You’ve got to take advantage of it. Starting at home is nicer and we’ve got to get off on the right foot and win our games at home.”
Team captain Dustin Brown said players’ mind-set might need to adjust a bit.
“We’ve played really well on home ice this year,” he said. “It’s a matter of getting to where we need to be mentally, to protect our home-ice advantage….
“Look at the teams this year that played well at home — they did well in the playoffs at home too. You feed off the energy of the crowd, and the crowd here has always been awesome and it’s just a matter of getting that energy and using it in the right way and not getting too excited.”
Like last season, Coach Darryl Sutter has arranged for game-day skates to be held at Staples Center instead of the team’s El Segundo practice rink, and players are staying at a downtown Los Angeles hotel on game days. Sutter said the players had the option of checking into the hotel Monday night or Tuesday morning.
The Kings rarely — if ever — practice at Staples Center during the season, so players welcomed the chance to feel comfortable with the ice and the surroundings during the morning skate.
“I guess you kind of get used to the ice at Staples and the boards and stuff like that, because every rink is different,” defenseman Drew Doughty said. “Boards bounce differently.
“We don’t get many practice times here at Staples so it’s good to kind of get used to that because sometimes when we come in here we’re just as used to the ice as the other team, which isn’t good. So I guess that’s an advantage we have.”
Brown said players remain more focused when they skate at Staples Center hours before playing there.
“Unfortunately we can’t do it during the regular season because of Staples scheduling and traffic,” Brown said, “but it makes it seem more like our home rink, from a player's standpoint, practicing here in the morning. During the regular season I don’t think we’ve ever done it except for picture days. It does help with the being-at-home feeling.”
One more note: With two days between Games 3 and 4 in San Jose on Saturday and Tuesday, the Kings are considering flying home after Game 3 to practice in El Segundo on Sunday and Monday. A final decision hasn't been made.
ALSO:Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times