EL SEGUNDO – Instead of rally towels, perhaps the Kings should give blood-pressure pills to their fans.
This is an exciting but anxious time to follow the Kings, who led their fans to despair (a 3-0 first-round series deficit against San Jose), then joy (a historic comeback), then did it all over again Saturday night.
The Kings trailed in the waning moments of Game 1 against the Ducks, tied the game with seven seconds remaining in regulation then won it, 3-2, in overtime. Game 2 is Monday night at Honda Center, and the Kings are carving out their niche as the team that won’t go away, or do anything in an easy, simple fashion.
“We always find a way to make it difficult and then find a way to dig ourselves out,” captain Dustin Brown said. “I think that just reassures our belief system in each other.”
That will be tested again in Game 2, given that the Kings, already without Willie Mitchell, are also expected to be without fellow veteran defenseman Robyn Regehr. Regehr suffered an undisclosed injury during the middle of the first period of Game 1, and recent call-up Jeff Schultz is expected to take his place.
The Kings will expect a push from a Ducks team desperate not to drop the series’ first two games at home, and the Kings will need to be better. They won Game 1 but needed a late, goalie-pulled goal to make it happen. During one stretch, the Kings went 17 minutes, 30 seconds, without a shot on goal.
“We don’t feel we played a great game and we still came out on top,” winger Justin Williams said. “We’re going to push in the next game, and try to come out firing, really.”
Even so, recent history suggests the Kings won’t get rattled if they struggle early, particularly since they’ve also won three consecutive playoff road games.
When it was suggested to Kings coach Darryl Sutter that his team was causing stress for its fans, the ever-pragmatic coach said, “They get to still watch. That’s the easy part. Most teams’ (fans) don’t.”
TIME FOR SCHULTZ
Sutter wouldn’t confirm it, but by all accounts, Schultz will make his Kings debut in Game 2. The Kings did not hold a full-team practice Sunday.
The Kings signed Schultz, a 28-year-old defenseman with 399 career NHL games, to a one-year contract last summer, but he didn’t make the team out of training camp and spent all of this season in the AHL.
Schultz, listed at 6-foot-6, 230 pounds, had 13 points and a plus-10 rating in 67 AHL games this season, and got called up by the Kings last week after Mitchell’s lower-body injury. He does have 29 games of NHL playoffexperience, most recently a 10-game run with the Washington Capitals in 2012.
“It’s an exciting time,” Schultz said. “I worked hard all year and didn’t think this day was going to come, but I have the opportunity to help the team win. I’m going to go out there and do my best and do what they ask me to do. It’s a whole new season. Everything is intensified that much more.”
A 2004 first-round pick by Washington, Schultz played parts of five seasons under Coach Bruce Boudreau, who now coaches the Ducks.