There wasn't much time to celebrate on Friday night before it was back off to the races.
Wait… Game 1 is when?! To the airport!— LA Kings (@LAKings) May 17, 2014
After crushing the competition in their Game 7 victory against the Anaheim Ducks, the Los Angeles Kings were left with little time before heading 2,000 miles away for a Western Conference Final rematch against a well-rested Chicago Blackhawks team.
Unlike the Blackhawks, the Kings have had very little time to catch their breath since the postseason began, as both of their previous series went a full seven games. But that didn't prove to be too much of an issue in their first two rounds, and they hope the same goes against the defending champions.
"It's not the best situation, but it is what it is," Anze Kopitar said. "Everybody knows that at this time of the year, it doesn't get easy. It's not ideal for us, but we got a good little skate today and we'll be ready tomorrow."
The playoffs are a grind for any team, especially at this point in the postseason. The Kings haven't had time to take their foot off the gas pedal, and they've continued to find ways to accelerate when it matters most.
On Saturday morning they hit the ice once again before boarding their flight to Chicago. It's been a non-stop, go-go-go schedule for California's last standing team. And while it may not provide the most ideal situation, the Kings have still managed to find success with it.
"It's what you make of it. If you think it's really difficult or hard travel, then you're going to be tired," Dustin Brown said. "If you just ignore it — an 82-game schedule's a grind, too — it's just how you manage it as a team and as individuals. At this time of year, it's about finding the next level."
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Having long back-to-back series isn't what the Kings hoped for. After all, look back at their 2012 Cup-winning season when they had what Brown called "probably the most days off in history" — that extra rest clearly helped as they dominated those playoffs.
But by this point in the postseason, no series is easy, and the Kings aren't using their schedule as an excuse. They are, after all, playing the team that ended their season last year.
That alone can add a jolt of momentum that rest days couldn't bring.
"We're excited about coming here," head coach Darryl Sutter said. "They're the last team that beat us in the playoffs. They're the team that has the Cup. If we want another shot at them, we knew we'd probably have to take this road."
It's been a long, grinding road, but a road the Kings have found success on. After falling to the Blackhawks in five games last year, they hope to reverse the narrative this time around.
"It's going to be a battle out there ago," Drew Doughty said. "We owe (the Blackhawks), they beat us pretty good last year, beat us pretty handily. We have to learn from what we did wrong and fix those things."