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On brink of Stanley Cup Final, LA Kings not looking ahead

Sean Leahy
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The Staples Center in Los Angeles has been busy this weekend with six playoff games in four days between the Clippers, Kings and Lakers with Sunday featuring a day/night hockey/basketball doubleheader. And while arena workers change the surface from ice to a basketball court sometime Sunday afternoon, at the same time, there could be some celebrating going on in the home locker room.

The Stanley Cup Final awaits the Kings with a win Sunday over the Phoenix Coyotes. It's been 19 years since they've been at this point in the postseason, but there are plenty of players on the roster that have played this late in a season before. Despite that experience, there will be nerves and likely some minds looking ahead before the puck drops on Game 4.

"Everyone talks about getting to the Stanley Cup Final, but I can only speak really for myself, playing in that game tomorrow [Sunday] night is pretty fun, as well," said Kings captain Dustin Brown on Saturday.

"It's one of the things where you gotta really enjoy the journey. We're one game away from the Cup Final. But it's one game we have to win."

It's only human nature for Brown and his teammates to picture what a celebration might be like in front of the home crowd after another series sweep. And, in Brown's case, he may have taken a moment to ponder whether or not he touches the Clarence Campbell Bowl out of superstition.

Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, however, were a bit more cautious.

"Once you get caught looking ahead, or back, you can get caught and just start daydreaming," said Kopitar. "Obviously, that's not very good."

"It's tough not to think ahead," said Doughty. "But at the same time, it's easy because all you're thinking about is that next game. We know we still got a lot of work to do. We're not even close to being there yet."

The Coyotes know the amount of work that lies ahead of them. It's the "one game at a time" cliche, but in situations like they're in, that's how it needs to be approached.

"It could be overwhelming if you look at the big picture," said Coyotes forward Antoine Vermette. "We're certainly aware of the situation. I don't think it's any good for us in the preparation to look back too much or look too much ahead."

In order to be able to get to that next game, the Coyotes will need to figure out Jonathan Quick, a tall order that the Vancouver Canucks and St. Louis Blues failed to do previous to them. The Kings have their skates on the throats of the Coyotes and knowing not to give Phoenix a lifeline here is something Los Angeles has learned in these playoffs.

After failing to close out the Canucks in four games in the first round, Quick bounced back in Game 5 allowing just a goal and making 26 saves. Learning from that hiccup, the Kings made sure the Blues' hopes were dashed, uh, "Quick"-ly as the netminder stopped 23 shots and again allowed one goal to finish off the sweep.

Currently, there is no challenger for the Conn Smythe Trophy for Quick. He's been head and shoulders above more valuable than any other player in the postseason. His 11-1 record, 1.41 goals-against average and .951 save percentage are even better than Tim Thomas' fabulous postseason numbers a year ago that earned him playoff MVP honors.

The way Quick has played, there's a strong chance he could take home the Smythe even if the Kings fall in the Final -- should they advance, of course.

We wouldn't want to get ahead of ourselves, either.

Follow Sean Leahy on Twitter at @Sean_Leahy

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