Not that he would let it show, but Kings Coach Darryl Sutter was quietly amused on the bench last week in Colorado.
He was trying to carefully manage minutes in the Kings' first game after the Olympic break, particularly in the case of defenseman Drew Doughty and forward Jeff Carter. Doughty and Carter, both of Team Canada, had been on the winning side in the gold-medal game against Sweden on the final day of the Olympics.
Who knows? Their body clocks were probably still somewhere over Nova Scotia by the time they took the ice against the Avalanche.
"He [Doughty] wanted to play more," Sutter said on Sunday after the Kings held an optional practice in El Segundo. "He'd come off and he was [hacked] off. He's about winning. I was just laughing to myself.
"He gets that little sour look."
Doughty still logged more than 23 minutes of ice time in the Colorado game, and he put in nearly 22 minutes the next night at Calgary, both victories by the Kings. By Saturday, he was closer to his usual minutes in the 3-1 win over Carolina, a shade over 27 minutes.
Sutter was talking about how the break benefited his players, those in Sochi, and those who were not there. He has noticed a blend, an infusion of rest and renewed confidence.
"Win or lose, it's got to be a great experience they're always going to have," Sutter said. "I said to them, 'I know you represent your country, but you represent us too.' And they were awesome at it."
Kings center Anze Kopitar, who helped put his native Slovenia on the hockey map at the Olympics in a major way, said he felt as if he took a bit of a hit in the second game back, in Calgary, in terms of recovery but improved after that. "I think I'm back on track again," he said.
So was time away from the NHL just what the Kings needed?
"I think so. Sometimes you need a break like that too," Kopitar said. "I guess it came at the right time for us."
The Kings have trended upward in the final stages of the season, a recent pattern the last couple of years. They made the playoffs in the second-to-last game of the regular season in their Stanley Cup winning campaign in 2012.
"I think we're a team that is built better for the playoffs than we are for the regular season," Kopitar said. "The last couple of years we've had some struggles in the regular season, but when it's time to make it all happen we were right there and we were up to the challenge.
"It's getting to about that point of the year where you've got to ramp it up. The guys are well-rested now and we're going to be ready to go."
The trade deadline on Wednesday is a focal point. If Kings General Manager Dean Lombardi doesn't end up making a deal — even a small one — that doesn't mean that the lineup will be stagnant the last six weeks. Youngsters Tanner Pearson, Linden Vey and Tyler Toffoli will probably get the chance for increased opportunities, depending upon how they respond.
"Dean has done a really good job throughout the last three or four years," Kopitar said. "He seems like he's always put pieces together the way it's supposed to be put. We've got all the confidence in him that he's going to push the right buttons again.
"But I don't think anybody is pushing really for a big trade because we feel real comfortable with the personnel that we have."
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 1150.
Etc.: Former Kings defenseman Davis Drewiske is not on this trip with Montreal. Drewiske was put on waivers on Sunday, and if he clears, he would go to the organization's American Hockey League affiliate in Hamilton, Ontario.
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