Puck notes: Playoffs; Dean Lombardi on Brayden Schenn; Devils win draft lottery
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A key matchup in the Kings’ first-round playoff series against the San Jose Sharks could be the Sharks’ power play, which ranked second in the NHL with a 23.5% success rate, against the Kings’ penalty killing, which ranked fourth with an 85.5% efficiency rate.
“I think that’s an easy one to point out,” Sharks Coach Todd McLellan said the other day during a conference call with reporters.
“Their penalty kill has been exceptional all year. They’ve got some units that do a tremendous job and their goaltender might be their best penalty killer. We do rely on our power play. I expect it to be sharp but I do believe this series will likely be won five-on-five. Those two special teams may offset each other and you’re going to have to perform five-on-five and find a way to prevent a score.”
Kings Coach Terry Murray agreed that it’s wise not to rely too much on the power play in the playoffs because the calls might not be plentiful.
“Some teams look for that and wait for that and it can come back and haunt you,” he said Tuesday after the Kings practiced in El Segundo.
“I think there will be a lot of five-on-five play. I don’t think we’re going to get into too many special teams, in my opinion. I just base it on the way the season finished off the last month—they let the teams decide the outcome.”
The Kings had only 23 power plays in their last seven games and had no power plays or disadvantages against Dallas on April 2.
Schenn plays for Saskatoon, which trails Kootenay three games to none in a best-of-seven series and could be eliminated Wednesday. Schenn could otherwise be recalled only if the Kings have two injuries to forwards and make two emergency recalls from their minor league system before summoning him.
“That’s a good question,” Lombardi said. “It’s not that I haven’t been thinking about it.”
Even if Schenn becomes available, would it serve him and the Kings to throw him into the pressure of the NHL playoffs?
Lombardi seemed to think not, even though the Kings’ offense has stalled since Anze Kopitar suffered a season-ending ankle injury.
“With your top player, and he was told this when he left, I think part of their development, particularly when they go back to a league where they should be a dominant player, is to go deep and win. If you’re that good, as he is and as he should be, you might as well learn to take winning on your shoulders now,” Lombardi said.
“I’m a little torn on it. On one hand you want to have access but we made the commitment to go this route. I want to see him win.”
Lombardi is also cautious about the pressure that would be put on Schenn if he were to join the Kings.
“The other thing, too, is that he can help us in terms of making plays. But the perception that he’s somehow going to fill in for Kopitar is way off,” Lombardi said. “He could improve the team in an area like [Andrei] Loktionov, in terms of playmaking and puck possession. But the perception that he’s going to go in there and suddenly Kopitar’s hole is going to be filled, that’s totally unrealistic.
“The other thing in the back of my mind is, is this really the stage to put the kid on? We’ll probably make the decision when the time comes. But I want this kid to win a Memorial Cup. It’s huge. To me there’s a difference between a great player and a winner. If you’ve reached the first step and become a top player and it’s taking responsibility for winning . . . I think a guy can learn that at a lower level. There is a school of thought that when you’re drafting or grading for a player you look at his history of winning. There are teams that put that in the mix.”
A league-related note: the New Jersey Devils won the NHL draft lottery drawing Tuesday but because no team can move up more than four spots they moved up only to fourth.
The Edmonton Oilers retained the No. 1 pick in the draft, which will be June 24-25 at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn. For once, neither the Kings nor the Ducks were involved in the lottery because both made the playoffs.
The draft order for the non-playoff teams will be Edmonton, Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, New York Islanders, Ottawa, Atlanta, Columbus, Boston (acquired from Toronto in a trade), Minnesota, Colorado (acquired from St. Louis), Carolina, Calgary and Dallas.