Kings' game-day skate: No news is good news
All was quiet at the Kings' morning skate Saturday in El Segundo.
Jonathan Quick will start in goal tonight against the Ducks at Staples Center after watching Jonathan Bernier start and win the last two, and the lineup will feature only one change. Rugged winger Raitis Ivanans will replace Jeff Halpern, who is expected to be out a week after suffering what the Kings are calling an upper-body injury when he was hit by Vancouver's Tanner Glass on Thursday.
The Kings' magic number to clinch a playoff spot is four points: either they earn four or Calgary fails to earn four and they're in. The Flames don't play Saturday night.
A couple of notes:
I chatted with winger Justin Williams, who on Thursday scored his first goal in 11 games since returning from a broken ankle -- and his first goal overall since Dec. 3. He has been more active and involved the last two games and it paid off when he went wide on a Vancouver defenseman and took a fling-it-at-the-net shot that deflected at least once before getting past Roberto Luongo for the Kings' seventh goal in an 8-3 rout.
For the Kings to have any success in the playoffs they'll need their first line of Ryan Smyth, Anze Kopitar and Williams to be clicking, and they've showed some signs of that in the last two games. In those games, Williams said, he has seen the team's collective purpose and intensity solidify.
"You could feel it in the dressing room. You could feel it on the ice. You could probably feel it as a spectator watching it. It was a little bit more intense," he said. "That’s great, knowing that we can rise up and get to that next level, because we were kind of stagnant and stale and kind of la-di-dah a few games before that.
"Knowing that clinching a playoff spot is so close drives the guys a little bit more. We worked all year for this. Don’t let it slip in the last few games."
Coach Terry Murray said he also felt a heightened sense of urgency and cohesiveness during the Kings' wins Tuesday at Nashville and Thursday at home against Vancouver
"There’s an uptick in attitude, in work," Murray said. "I think we took a step back, just relaxed. Maybe a step back is the wrong word, but we just let off in our intensity and relaxed a little bit coming out of the two-week-off Olympic break. Is that due to a young hockey club? It could be. Maybe that’s my fault in not pushing them extra-hard after we came back, in the practices at the Olympic break.
"It’s hard to put your finger on that one because I’m looking around the league and I take a look at some of the top teams, premier teams in the game, who the last 10 games have had a difficult time."
I'll have more on Williams and the Kings later at www.latimes.com.
-- Helene Elliott