All that is standing between the Kings and Ducks for a first meeting in the playoffs is one game.
If this script sounds like a recycled one — local teams on the verge of a playoff showdown — you would be correct. Last year, the Ducks needed to win Game 7 in Anaheim against Detroit and stumbled badly, putting the playoff vision of Kings vs. Ducks straight back in turnaround.
A year later, the obstacles for the Kings are considerably more daunting against the San Jose Sharks in Game 7. There is NHL history: Only three teams have rallied to win a series after dropping the first three games. The Kings are the ninth team to force a seventh game after facing a 3-0 series deficit.
There is "the Cage," the arena commonly known as SAP Center in San Jose. It's been intimidating and inhospitable and the Kings have won one playoff game there since 2011, staving off elimination in Game 5. Plus, there's that "Beat L.A.," chant, a mantra apparently in desperate need of an update.
"Whatever. I don't think it's the best chant I've ever heard," Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said Tuesday. "It's not even a good chant."
Kings forward Justin Williams and some of his teammates take the energy and flip it around. "It gets me going. I trick my mind into pretending they're cheering for me," Williams said.
Williams already has a vaunted reputation as a Game 7 closer. He is 4-0 in Game 7s with nine points, five of them goals, including two in last year's Game 7 win over the Sharks at Staples Center. He had gone eight playoff games without a goal before that result.
"He's been in this position in times before," Kings goalie Jonathan Quick said of Williams. "He's been on teams that figure out ways to win those types of games. I think you learn from those experiences. He's a guy that's certainly been through those experiences, so he's a wealth of knowledge on how to succeed in those situations."
This time, that Game 7 timetable was moved up, by necessity. Williams went pointless in the series in the first three games, but scored twice in Game 4 and had two goals and an assist in Game 6 on Monday. He did not score in the final six games of the regular season.
"He just loves — he loves this time but he loves the pressure situations and he seems to just embrace it," Kings center Mike Richards said. "He's excited for every game and he's vocal. He's just a competitor. He's not the biggest guy. He's — I don't want to say skinny — but he's a smaller guy.
"Man, does he ever battle out there. It doesn't matter how big he is and how big the other person is. For a guy as competitive he is, he usually comes up with the puck, and he's a really big emotional leader for our team. I guess just leading us with how hard he works and how competitive he is with the puck. His personality, I think, just pulls everybody into the fight."
Richards also is 4-0 in Game 7s, and has a chance to be on two teams to rally from a 3-0 playoff deficit. He was with the Philadelphia Flyers in 2010 when they pulled off the feat against the Boston Bruins. Kings forward Marian Gaborik, acquired from Columbus at the trade deadline, is 4-0 in Game 7s.
Although Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell is 3-0 in Game 7s, it is doubtful he will play Wednesday. Mitchell was injured near the end of Sharks power play in the second period of Game 6 and it was understood he was "probably out" for Game 7 and moving into the lineup would be defenseman Matt Greene, who played in Game 2.
Forward Colin Fraser was sent down to team's American Hockey League affiliate at Manchester, N.H., on Tuesday, paving the way for minor league defenseman Jeff Schultz to join the Kings. There was no official announcement but an extra defenseman will be needed.
San Jose likely will be without its No. 1 defenseman, Marc-Edouard Vlasic , who missed Game 6, and the Sharks did not announce their starting goalie. Alex Stalock was the starter in Game 6 after they had yanked starter Antti Niemi in Game 4 and Game 5.
The Kings are 4-4 in Game 7s, and Kings Coach Darryl Sutter is 4-3 in Game 7s. He has changed the lines in the middle of the series and adapted to the circumstances.
"I think he's been more vocal the last couple games," Richards said. "The first two he was trying to let us figure it out and after we didn't figure it out he started taking control a bit."
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