Day games at Staples Center don’t happen very often for the Los Angeles Kings. When they do, they tend to be memorable.
They’ll try to make history Sunday at noon when they host the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 4 of the Western Conference finals. A victory will complete the sweep and send L.A. to the Stanley Cup finals for the second time in the franchise’s 45-year history.
In their most recent day game two weeks ago, the Kings completed a sweep of the St. Louis Blues in the Western Conference semifinals.
Other recent afternoon starts haven't gone so well.
The team’s leading scorer, Anze Kopitar, suffered a season-ending ankle injury during a day game in March 2011, knocking him out of the playoffs.
The Kings then went 0-3 during regular-season day games this season, including a 2-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens, the last-place team in the Eastern Conference, and a 1-0 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, the last-place team in the West. That will forever be marked as the game Dustin Penner missed after injuring his back during his infamous pancake-eating incident.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter took the rare step two weeks ago of housing the team in a downtown hotel for the weekend. It worked so well, he’s doing it again this week. That decision was made even easier because of the Amgen Tour of California bike race that's scheduled to finish in front of Staples Center about a half hour before the start of Game 4, creating what many expect to be a traffic nightmare.
Sutter said he’s still not sure what to expect from his team, which played just one day game at Staples Center since he was hired in mid-December.
“You always have those three or four guys that aren’t perfect morning people,” Sutter said.
One of the biggest challenges, he said, is eating properly before a day game.
“That’s always an issue because you don’t want to get them up too early,” Sutter said. “If they want to eat at 7 a.m., or 8, you kind of let them decide. That’s what’s more important to me.”