The motivation staring at the Los Angeles Kings is obvious.
Down 3-1 in the NHL Western Conference final against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Kings are down to their final life.
The precedent for such a comeback isn’t hard to spot for the Kings, either.
“Look at the opponent we’re playing, they were in the exact same situation and they came out of it in the last round,” Kings defenceman Robyn Regehr said of the Blackhawks, who completed such a comeback against the Detroit Red Wings in the previous round.
“It’s something that is very doable. We’re preparing to win one game (Saturday) and that’s as far as we’re looking right now.”
The reigning Stanley Cup champs are on the ropes, so trot out the cliches as they prepare for Game 5 at the United Center.
It’s do-or-die time.
There’s no tomorrow.
Actually, the Kings are doing all they can to keep an even-keeled approach.
“One thing about this group of guys is we tend to play our best hockey when we’re really in trouble,” captain Dustin Brown said Friday when the team arrived at their hotel in Chicago. “You look at last year in the regular season, I think we were in 13th place with 20 games to go.
“It’s a different situation when you’ve just got one game to play, but you can draw on being in the trench hole together. I think it’s key for us, the fact that we’ve been through it together and we’ve been down in the holes together.”
The Kings, who have essentially the same team as the one that claimed the crown last year, have been through the battles together before, but they weren’t in this kind of hole.
This is the second time in the last couple of playoff runs – the first being against the San Jose Sharks in a Game 7 matchup a week and a half ago – they’ve even faced elimination, let alone been staring at such a deficit.
“I don’t put a big deal on elimination games, because really it doesn’t have much impact on anything or anybody,” head coach Darryl Sutter said. “If we play like we did the last three games, we have a chance to win.”
Going against the Kings, though, are the facts they’ll likely be without Mike Richards (“We didn’t skate today. He didn’t do much yesterday. Honestly, I couldn’t tell you. It is still doubtful at best,” Sutter said of his centre’s status) and their miserable road record.
The Kings have just one victory in eight road playoff games this spring, an incredible flip-flop compared to their 10-1 mark during last year’s run to the Cup.
“I’m not too worried about it,” winger Justin Williams said of his club’s road struggles. “It hasn’t gone our way on the road, obviously, but now we need to win two of them in the United Center. We’re not scared of it. We’re certainly not scared of it. We’re going to welcome the challenge to beat the best team in the league this year in their own house, starting tomorrow.”
To Sutter, though, most of those losses could just as easily become victories.
“Five of them were 2-1 losses, so if you lose 2-1, a lot of those games you could win,” he said. “I think it was three overtime games, one in the last minute of regulation, so what’s the difference? Not much. Not very much.”
But those games ended in defeat, including the first two clashes of the series in Chicago.
“I just don’t think you get too carried away,” centre Jarret Stoll said of his team’s struggles away from SoCal. “You just simplify your game and try to do little things out there to, first of all, get the lead, win the first period and set up your second period and your third period.
“We’ve all played big games, must-win games. You don’t think of it that way, you just think of it as getting yourself ready to play, ready to play the right way and if everybody does that hopefully we’ll be fine. Just simply win a road game, win one game and get this back to Staples Center.”
On Twitter: @SunRandySportak