LOS ANGELES – Getting home ice. It’s supposed to be an advantage. For some, such as the Blackhawks’ it’s been just that; Wednesday marked their first loss there all postseason.
For the Los Angeles Kings, however, home hasn’t been so sweet. They’re just 3-3 here during the playoffs; a tough start against the Anaheim Ducks in which they lost Games 1 and 2 here is largely to blame for that. But that series is over, and the Kings are looking to reverse their home-ice trend starting Saturday night, when they host the Blackhawks in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
The Kings pulled off the rarity earlier this week, besting the Blackhawks at the United Center – in convincing fashion, too – to square this best-of-seven series 1-1. Now they have to take advantage of these next two games at the Staples Center, where results have been mixed.
“We need to be better at home. We messed that up against Anaheim obviously,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “We have to have that identity at home, especially in the playoffs. If we can steal one in their arena and then win two at home, that puts us up 3-1 every series. We haven’t been able to do that yet but we need to work on it and take it one game at a time.”
The Blackhawks are 2-4 on the road this season, but both those victories were pivotal. The first was their Game 5 victory against the St. Louis Blues, the second their series-clinching Game 6 triumph at the Minnesota Wild. In recent years there’s no doubt the Blackhawks are well versed at how to win on the road. But this is about the Kings, and what they need to do to avoid another home loss.
“Manage the puck, have better starts, be better in the D zone (and) breaking out,” Kings forward Jarret Stoll said. “Stopping pressure and getting out of our zone quicker, I think, is one of the main things we have to get better at, then managing the puck. Against a team with a high skill level, a good offensive team, you can’t mishandle the puck. You can’t give away easy turnovers. You have to make them work for it and battle for it. That’s what we’re going to hope to do starting tomorrow night.’’
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The Kings aren’t sweating their past failures at home; winning two seven-game series will get you over those things quick. Still, they’ve got a great opportunity in front of them. They stole one in Chicago and could really put some pressure on the Blackhawks if they hold serve.
“It’s sports; things happen. From year to year, it’s not going to be the same,” Stoll said of past home losses. “We’ve won a lot of games at home. Maybe it’s not exactly the same storyline, but we’re still here, we’re still playing.’’