Kings can clinch playoff spot with win at San Jose
Because the Ducks’ loss to Dallas on Sunday prevented the Kings from clinching a playoff spot, the Kings will have a chance to take that final step themselves Monday, when they face the Sharks in San Jose.
“Win and we’re in,” winger Ryan Smyth said, “and then we can climb.”
The Kings’ magic number for clinching their second straight postseason berth is two: They must earn two points or Dallas must fail to earn two. The Stars next play on Tuesday, at home against Columbus.
The Kings held an optional morning skate Monday at HP Pavilion. Coach Terry Murray said afterward that he had watched the Ducks lose to Dallas on Sunday night but is more concerned with his own team's efforts.
“I think you always have to look at games that way. You want to take care of your own business and do your thing the right way,” he said.
There’s no difference, he said, in having another team’s result take care of the magic number or having his own team do it.
“I just feel that as a team you’ve got to keep playing the games the right way, playing hard, trying to put as many points on the board as you possibly can,” he said. “Even if you do have a position clinched, my philosophy is I’m not going to back off on how I’m going to use the players. I’m not going to take anybody out of the lineup to rest them.
“If you do anything at all you might just back off a few minutes in minutes played over the course of the game but when you get to this late in the year I would like to just keep going. You’ve got to keep your attitude, your focus and play as if you are getting ready for the playoffs, which would start in a couple of days.”
Smyth said the Kings believe they can still win the Pacific division. The Kings trail division-leading San Jose by five points. Each team has four games left, starting Monday.
“We’ve just got to worry about shooting for our goals and to try to get San Jose, right here, right now,” Smyth said. “We have that opportunity to narrow the gap and hopefully we can do that.”
Left wing Dustin Penner, criticized by Murray for his sub-par work ethic last week, said he thought he played better against Dallas on Saturday even though his scoring drought continued. He has gone eight games without a point and nine without a goal.
“I had a good game last game and didn’t get rewarded for it,” he said. “But puck possession is something that we’ve talked about. Instead of giving it up right away, holding onto it and just being more on the puck.”
Can he do it? “I did it last game, so I’m one for one,” he said.
He also said he’s not as bothered by his personal scoring struggles as he would be if the Kings weren’t playing well. They’re 10-3-2 since his first game, on March 3.
“It would [bother him] more if we were losing,” he said. “We’ve had a pretty good record since I’ve been here.”
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--Helene Elliott, in San Jose
Photo: Los Angeles Kings center Jarret Stoll (28) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal during the shootout against the San Jose Sharks at the Staples Center March 24, 2011. Credit: Kirby Lee / US Presswire