LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings conclude their 2016-17 home schedule against a team they had hoped to see in the postseason, the Chicago Blackhawks. Instead of tuning up for another playoff run, the underperforming Kings are about to tune out for the summer.
Los Angeles (38-35-7) played lifeless hockey since being eliminated from the postseason as evidenced by its 4-1 loss to Calgary, where it offered little resistance after the first period of play. Considered to be a contender at the start of the season, the Kings' inability to create consistent offense all season placed them in 10th place in the Western Conference and fueled speculation around the status of general manager Dean Lombardi and coach Darryl Sutter.
Despite the presence of elite players like Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty, Los Angeles ranks 25th in offense (1.9 goals per game) and is last in shooting percentage (6.16) playing 5-on-5 hockey.
"It's disappointing when you're eliminated. That's the tough part of it. At the same time, once you get in the game, you want to win it," said right winger Jarome Iginla. "When you get out there you forget about all that other stuff, you just want to win the game and enjoy playing it, playing hard, playing the right way. It's our last home game, we'd like to go out in front of our fans on a good note."
The Blackhawks (50-23-8) clinched the No. 1 Western Conference seed Saturday and are resting regulars awaiting to learn if they will face the Calgary Flames or the Nashville Predators in the first round of the playoffs. Calgary holds its playoff destiny in its own hands and with a win against the San Jose Sharks will send the Predators to the Windy City.
Coach Joel Quenneville sat out Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa in Thursday's 4-0 loss to the Anaheim Ducks. One of the few stars to suit up in Anaheim, right winger Patrick Kane, attempted to attach some importance the final game of the season.
"You are playing in the NHL, it is another opportunity to test ourselves against a good hockey team," Kane said. "There are guys in our locker room that are trying to earn a spot in the lineup for the playoffs, so there's a lot of motivation there. As these games go on you want to get some momentum going into the playoffs."
Quenneville agreed with Kane by saying the effort in the loss was a major improvement over the 4-3 overtime loss to the last place Avalanche in Denver Tuesday.
"The effort was way better today than in Colorado," Quenneville said. "I think every game is different and it gives us the opportunity to make the right decisions when we start the playoffs. We have one more game to focus and while our team plays for keeps, let's not look past Los Angeles."
While the game is meaningless for both teams from a standings aspect, it is meaningful for one long-standing member of the Kings organization, television play-by-play announcer Bob Miller.
Miller will conclude a 44-year Hall of Fame broadcasting career with Los Angeles' final two games after being sidelined with a minor stroke in January that led to his announced retirement a few weeks ago. At the conclusion of Saturday's game, Miller will address the fans at center ice and participate in the club's annual Jerseys off the Back ceremony.