Stanley Cup finals
Game 6 (Kings lead series, 3-2)
Kings vs. New Jersey Devils at Staples Center, 5 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Clock is ticking – So close has been Lord Stanley’s Cup the past two games, the Kings could almost see it, nearly touch it and practically feel the tradition reverberating from its sterling silver. But the Devils didn’t roll over in Game 4, and then pushed back a little more in Game 5, leaving L.A. still one win from raising its first Cup. Despite the luxury of having two more chances to win one more game, this has to be considered a Game 7 for the Kings. They want no part of a seventh game Wednesday in Newark, no matter how well they’ve played on the road. If they hope to stem this rising New Jersey tide, the Kings need to play their best game of the series.
2. Added demands – Only two members of the current Devils team were on the organization’s 2003 team, the last to win the Stanley Cup: goalie Martin Brodeur and forward Patrik Elias. But the entire squad seems to have developed a been there, done that attitude. New Jersey coach Pete DeBoer poked fun at the Kings after practice Sunday, saying the Devils had noticed a stream of limousines parked outside Staples Center prior to Game 4, just waiting to whisk the Kings to an after-party once they completed the sweep. Earlier in the day, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty admitted there were some outside distractions prior to Game 4. “We were nervous, worried about other things," he said. "All of us in the room were kind of frustrated that we were thinking about things ahead of time.” Doughty said coach Darryl Sutter vowed to make sure that wouldn’t happen again. No word if he confiscated their cellphones.
3. Mission in action – If the Kings hope to wrap up the Cup, they must squeeze more production from their top six forwards. The only member of that group who has played better as the series has rolled along is right wing Justin Williams. He scored goals in two of the past three games and rang the post twice as well. Dustin Brown was so ineffective down the stretch of Game 5 that he sat out the last five minutes, and their leading scorer in the playoffs, Anze Kopitar, hasn’t recorded a shot on goal the past two games. The only thing the second line of Mike Richards, Jeff Carter and Dustin Penner has generated the past two games is more length to their beards.
4. Where’s Simon? – After missing nearly six months with a concussion, Simon Gagne has appeared in three straight games for the Kings. Sutter was hoping he would generate some offense in place of Brad Richardson, but so far he has recorded zero points. Even more telling for those who didn’t like the move in the first place, the Kings are 1-2 with Gagne in the lineup. He has the offensive skill of a top-six forward but is still limited to fourth-line minutes, Sutter said. Gagne took a few shifts with Kopitar and Williams late in Saturday night’s loss, but since stamina is still an issue, Sutter can only go with that look intermittently, leaving him to roll with three lines. It will be interesting to see how Sutter uses Gagne moving forward, if he uses him at all.
5. Quick response – The last time Jonathan Quick gave up a soft goal in the playoffs — a shot from the red line against the Phoenix Coyotes in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals — he came back with a shutout in Game 2. L.A. fans are hoping he responds with a similar effort after his mishap with the puck midway through the first period of Game 5 allowed the Devils to take a 1-0 lead in a game they eventually won 2-1. Quick has been phenomenal in these playoffs and will likely wrap up the Conn Smythe Trophy if he can put the Kings on his shoulders once more.