LA’s Perspective….From Chicago
Upon arriving to the Team Hotel on Sunday in Chicago, the following Kings met with members of the media to preview Game 1 of the 2014 Western Conference Final:
Q. Are you worried at all about the turnaround after two seven-game series?
COACH SUTTER: I don't think 'worried' is the right word. Obviously, there's a little bit of concern how we're going to respond. We're excited about coming here. We talked about this all year. They're the last team to beat us in the playoffs. They're the team that has the Cup. If we want another shot at it, we knew it was probably going to have to be down this road.
Q. I know the schedule is a bit of a grind for you. Does your team feed off that? Do you think that benefits you to not have the time?
COACH SUTTER: I don't know. As playoffs go along, every team would tell you if they could get a break between series or a break during series. There's no momentum drop or gain. You need recovery days. Some guys go for it banged up.
We're not skating. We played 14 games now and we've had four guys that have practiced once. So it's a challenge, it always is. That's what playoffs is about.
Q. You say there's no momentum drop or gain. Do you worry about an emotional drop-off?
COACH SUTTER: I haven't seen it with this group. I mean, I'm sure all teams are different, but I haven't seen it.
We played a lot of series, so we haven't seen it affect us that way. I think that's one of the reasons we played last year in the playoffs because you're not going to always have a perfect game, you're always searching for the perfect game, and you never have the great game and you never have the bad game. As long as you can keep it in there somewhere, you give yourself a chance mentally to be better tomorrow. That's pretty much our team now.
Tomorrow what we don't have in energy we'll make up in being a little smarter. There's always ways to stay close.
Q. It seems like more of the top guys now are stepping up even more than they did in the series against the Blackhawks last year. What changes have you noticed with your offense?
COACH SUTTER: Well, it's a different team. There's probably about five or six different players in the lineup that are contributing significant minutes that we didn't have last year. So that would be the difference.
Q. Is there a chance for Willie Mitchell?
COACH SUTTER: He skated yesterday, he skated today. When the doctors and the trainer and Willie come and tell me he's ready, I'm open to that. That's the way it works.
Q. How much will that help your team, especially with the special teams?
COACH SUTTER: Well, he didn't play for us last year. He didn't play Game 7 against San Jose. He didn't play Game 7 against Anaheim. The kids we put in, Jeff Schultz came in the lineup, has done a really good job for us.
Sort of a playoff circle. Guys go out, guys come in. Sometimes they fulfill the prophecy, sometimes they don't.
Q. You mentioned before last night's game about some of your young guys. Are you happier overall with the way they played?
COACH SUTTER: Yeah, I think the longer the series go, the longer you need to use players. If you start shortening your bench up or the other team starts to shorten their bench up, it's usually to your advantage.
As a coach, you are looking to your next opponent a little bit. You are managing ice time.
Q. Dustin, does it matter that it's this team waiting for you tomorrow?
DUSTIN BROWN: I don't think going into the playoffs you're looking forward or you have a team you want to play. It's just kind of how it works out. Generally the best teams are playing this time of year. They have been the best team for the last couple of years.
You know what they did last year. I think the Central Division, even though they finished third, I think a lot of guys league-wide understood they're still a top team.
Q. Does it matter that they ended your season last year?
DUSTIN BROWN: I think each year is different. We've been through it before. I think what happens is the more you play teams in the playoffs the more you generally don't like each other.
Last year they definitely had our number, dominated the series. That's not something you think about now, but it's something in the back of your head.
Q. Two series going to a seven, then having to hop on a flight for an afternoon game, how much of a grind has that been for you guys?
DUSTIN BROWN: It's kind of what you make of it really. If you think it's really difficult to travel, you're tired, you're going to be tired.
82 games is a grind, too. You just have to manage it as a team, as individuals, get yourself ready to go. At this time of year it's about finding the next level.
Q. Now that you're here, does it feel like having the fast-paced schedule, you're able to carry your momentum over easier than having more time off?
DUSTIN BROWN: I think the more time off you can get, it's probably the best. Our 2012 run we probably had the most days off in history, just the way we closed out the series.
I think from my standpoint you want to keep on playing. It's kind of like the regular season. When you have a four- or five-day break, it feels good, but you kind of just want to just play every other day.
Q. Bet it felt good to have to practice this morning.
DUSTIN BROWN: Yeah, I mean, with the schedule the way it is, a 2 o'clock game, find some ice time this morning, which is fine. Like I said, it's what you make of it really. It is what it is.
Q. Two seven-game series for you guys, how much has this schedule been a grind?
ANZE KOPITAR: Yeah, it's not the best situation, but it is what it is. Everybody knows at this time of year, it doesn't get easy. It's not ideal for us.
We had a good little skate today. We'll be ready for tomorrow.
Q. From the emotions of a Game 7 going back to a Game 1, is it easy to carry that momentum you had last night with how quickly this game is coming back up?
ANZE KOPITAR: We just have to refocus. Everybody will tell you in the playoffs you can't get too high or too low. Obviously we were pretty excited last night. But that's what happened last series.
New series is starting tomorrow and we've got to refocus.
Q. Since you're playing the team that eliminated you last year, does that bring extra emotion into it?
ANZE KOPITAR: Yeah, I think we had a good series last year. We're looking to be on the other side this time around. We just have to focus. Can't get too carried away with what happened last year. Just stay and stick with our game plan.
Q. They had your number over the last couple of years. What makes them so difficult to slow them down?
ANZE KOPITAR: They have a lot of skill, good defense. Usually when you play run-and-gun in a game with them, it's not going to turn out very good for you.
We have to play our style, grind them, try to fore check as much as we can, put pressure on them.
Q. Same game plan as against Anaheim?
ANZE KOPITAR: Anaheim had a really good team right down the line really. You had to be aware of everybody that's on the ice.
It's not any different here in Chicago. Just have to be focused and ready for it.
Q. You're playing with your backs against the wall. Last year you had time off. Does it make a difference to you guys? Would you have a preference?
ANZE KOPITAR: Well, we'd rather play with the lead than trailing. But sometimes that happens. I think we've showed a lot of character in the first series, even the second series we came back. I think we kind of showed it to ourselves that we can do it. Therefore, we feel better about it.
Q. Adding a guy like Gaborik is a big boost. Pearson and Schultz, how have they been for your lineup?
ANZE KOPITAR: They've been good for us. They've added depth to our lineup. It's about four lines this time of the year. Everybody's got to produce. Everybody's got to be on their game. They've certainly stepped up to the plate, you know, and given us some good results.
Q. Your last series against the Blackhawks, the offense wasn't what it hoped you would be. The offense is a lot stronger. Does it feel like those things are clicking a lot more for you now?
ANZE KOPITAR: Yeah. I don't think we're trying to do anything different. It's just playing hard. This time of the year it doesn't matter who scores as long as we do. We've had scoring, I guess, spread out, if you can call it that way, and we're going to need it going forward.
Q. You have had a three-game losing streak in each series, but managed to win. How much does experience count?
DREW DOUGHTY: I think we have a good group of guys. We have a lot of leadership. Winning that Cup a couple years ago helped us. We had a lot of young guys, guys that hadn't been in the playoffs. I think we used that experience and knowledge of that type of game to come back in situations.
We don't want to be losing three games in a row. Sometimes things happen. We found a way and we're happy.
Q. You've spoken freely about your dislike of certain teams. Is Chicago rising up into that spectrum?
DREW DOUGHTY: Yeah, they're a tough team to play against. They're so good. They have so many good players. They have weapons at every single position. So, yeah, it's going to be a battle out there again. We all know they beat us pretty good last year, beat us pretty handily.
We have to learn what we did wrong and fix those things.
Q. Do you relish going up against guys like Toews and Kane, game-breakers?
DREW DOUGHTY: Yeah, of course. Playing those guys is tough. Every team has those tough guys that you relish going up and playing against. Some guys are tougher than others. These two in particular are going to be really tough for our ‘D’. Our forwards, as well. I look forward to playing against Toews and Kane and keeping them off the score sheet to the best of my ability.
It's going to be a battle, but I'm looking forward to it.
Q. Going into this series, do you approach it the way you did against Anaheim as a team?
DREW DOUGHTY: Yeah, we have to. We know how much firepower Chicago has. We'll go five games when we play other teams and we don't allow 10 grade A scoring opportunities. We played Chicago and they hit 10 in one game.
They play so fast, it's going back the other way they create chances. We know they can score goals.
Our game isn't to beat teams 5-4, stuff like that. We just want to keep them off the score sheet, give Quicky the least amount of work as possible, win games 1-0, 2-0. That's the way we approach it.
Q. Having two seven-game series, do you think it helps you carry the momentum into Game 1 tomorrow afternoon?
DREW DOUGHTY: I don't know how much momentum carries over from series to series. We're definitely on a high right now. We can carry that through.
We have to forget about the last series. We're definitely feeling confident in ourselves. We feel good as a team. We feel good as individuals. We definitely have to carry that over.
It's going to be tough to steal one in their arena here. It's a tough arena to play in. They're so good at home.
We need to try to win this first game. It's very important.
Q. What is it about the Blackhawks that you struggle with? What do you need to do differently?
DREW DOUGHTY: I think we need to keep possession of the puck. The times we get in trouble is when we make a turnover, they'll either draw a penalty -- and their power play is lethal. They'll score goals like they scored in the series last year.
We just want to keep possession of that puck. We want to get in and fore check, rough it up in the corners. We want to be a physical team. I think that's one thing, we can be more physical than them, no doubt about that. We have to, yeah, just keep the puck, make the right plays at the right times, not have as many turnovers.