EL SEGUNDO -- Been there, done that.
It was just two years ago that the Kings were simply satisfied to qualify for the postseason, ending an eight-year drought that seemed like an eternity for their long-suffering fans.
They played loose and lucid against the Vancouver Canucks to start the 2010 Western Conference playoffs, even taking a 2-games-to-1 lead and then holding a one-goal advantage with 13 minutes remaining in Game 4. That’s when they suddenly began playing as if they were in over their heads, allowing four goals in the final period and eventually losing in six games.
After a near-repeat performance last season against the Sharks -- only this time it was a four-goal lead they tossed aside in Game 3, flipping the series on its ear -- team captain Dustin Brown said the Kings were ready to take that next step when they open the playoffs Wednesday against the Canucks and win just their second playoff series since 1993.
“Part of getting to that next level is losing,” said Brown, who did plenty of that during his first five seasons with the Kings. “We lost in the regular season for two, three years, and then we finally figured out what it took.”
The key, Brown said, is simply taking the series one game at a time. Losing their grip on a chance to go up 2-games-to-1 against San Jose last season has definitely reinforced that train of thought.
“We’re up 4-0 [and] guys start thinking about the next game,” Brown said. “Right now, it’s a one-game series and that’s Wednesday.”
The Kings have stacked their lineup with players who have made deep playoff runs, and Brown is hoping that experience will rub off on the rest.
Jeff Carter, who is on track to return for Game 1 in Vancouver after sitting out the final five regular-season games with a deep bone bruise in his ankle, reached the Stanley Cup finals two years ago with the Philadelphia Flyers. So did his teammate at the time, Mike Richards, both of whom joined the Kings in the last 10 months.
Fourth-line center Colin Fraser, who came over from the Edmonton Oilers last summer, was a member of the Blackhawks team that downed the Flyers that season.
He joins a select group of Kings who have also won Stanley Cup titles; Justin Williams with the Carolina Hurricanes in 2006, Dustin Penner with the Ducks in 2007 and Rob Scuderi with the Penguins in 2009.
Along with the hunger some of the longer-tenured members of the Kings have developed, Brown is hoping they have the right combination to get over the first hump of the postseason.
“We’ve had two years in a row now where we’ve had opportunities to maybe close, or give ourselves a better opportunity later in the series to have the upper hand, and we let it slip by,” Brown said. “Now, it’s important for us to give ourselves an opportunity to get that upper hand.”
And this time close the door.