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#LAKings Kings clinch playoff berth, will face Edmonton in first round (Daily News)

The Kings are in the playoffs.
After scouring scoreboards, ogling odds and working to win each and every shift, the Kings are finally headed back to the postseason for the first time in four years after the Vegas Golden Knights’ loss to the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night cemented a playoff berth for captain Anze Kopitar’s club.
The Kings will now travel to the Pacific Northwest for back-to-back games against the Seattle Kraken on Wednesday and Vancouver Canucks on Thursday to conclude the regular season.
But their sights will soon shift about 750 miles northeast of Vancouver to Edmonton, where they will face Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Oilers in a best-of-seven first-round series that is expected to begin on May 2. Games 1 and 2 will be in Edmonton, as well as Games 5 and 7, if necessary.
For the Kings, it seemed as though the playoffs began weeks ago, with so many precarious moments, near-misses and arduous battles on their path to clinching, now 80 games into an 82-game regular season. They clinched in Game 81 in 2012, and then went on to win the franchise’s first Stanley Cup.
“We’ve kind of felt that way for a few weeks now. Every game has been a huge game for us, it’s just kind of felt like that, one game, let’s just get that one game,” defenseman Matt Roy said after Saturday’s victory over the Ducks. “We’ve been chipping away and it’s nice to be in that spot.”
In a battle of generationally talented duos, Edmonton’s McDavid and Draisaitl blew past Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin on Tuesday, 5-1, to secure a second-place finish in the Pacific Division and home ice in Round 1. McDavid had four points and Draisaitl added an assist.
“(McDavid) does it one way and Leon does it the other, that’s what makes it tough for the Kings and every other team in the league. You’ve got a guy that’s going 100 miles an hour and another guy that slows the game down,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said earlier this season. He coached Edmonton from 2015 to 2018, including a formidable playoff run in 2017.
For many Kings, such as Roy and center Blake Lizotte, this will be their first playoff experience.
The undersized but temeritous pivot has become emblematic of a Kings team that went from bare cupboards and the basement of the league’s weakest division to a potential Stanley Cup contender. His perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication as well as his performance as part of the Kings’ bottom six and penalty kill earned him a nomination for the Bill Masterton Trophy this season.
“You don’t do the type of things that good people would do to get noticed, but, at the end of the day, everyone likes to be appreciated for the things that they do,” Lizotte said. “It’s super humbling for sure.”
Lizotte has moved up to the third line, bringing his trademark tenacity to a trio with former first-liners Dustin Brown and Alex Iafallo. McLellan said that regardless of who he lined up with, Lizotte’s presence was felt throughout the lineup.
“Blake has the ability to pull people into the game and he does that on a nightly basis,” McLellan said. “He drags teammates in and they follow him. When he’s out, we miss it. And when he’s in, it’s there.”
Another once-unheralded prospect, goalie and former third-round pick Jonathan Quick, has been an even longer-standing symbol of the Kings’ selflessly competitive culture. He has gone on to become the most accomplished netminder in franchise history and arguably the top American-born goaltender of all-time as well. Heading into the season, the younger Cal Petersen was anointed not-so-subtly with a fresh contract extension and the nod in net on opening night.
But down the stretch, Quick has seized the reins in goal, winning four consecutive appearances and five out of six to get the Kings off the bubble and onto the promised land. For his most recent efforts – he went 3-0-0 with a 1.33 goals-against average and .937 save percentage in three games last week – Quick was named the NHL’s third star of the week on Monday.
Quick and the Kings’ final challenges of the regular season will be a pair of divisional foes without playoff aspirations. Seattle (26-46-6) has had an inaugural season to forget, having finished last in the division and been forced to sell off pieces at the trade deadline. Going into Tuesday’s games, forward Jared McCann’s 47 points represent the most meager figure in the NHL for a player leading his team in scoring, with Philadelphia’s Travis Konecy’s 52 the next lowest total.
The Kraken went 4-4-0 over the past eight games, a stretch that included the franchise’s first-ever three-game win streak. Seattle has lost two of three meetings with the Kings to date.
Vancouver (38-30-11) has fizzled of late with three consecutive losses before Tuesday, but to that point, they had been challenging the Kings, Vegas, Dallas and Nashville for the final available playoff spots in the Western Conference. Coach Bruce Boudreau has compiled a 30-15-9 record since taking the helm Dec. 7, a better record than all but the Kings and Calgary Flames among Pacific Division teams during that span.
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Vancouver battered the Kings 4-0 in Boudreau’s debut, but the Kings set up a Game-82 rubber match with a 2-1 shootout victory at home on Dec. 30. Forward J.T. Miller’s 96-point campaign is the most prolific for a Canuck since Daniel Sedin’s 104-point, Art Ross Trophy-winning season in 2010-11. On Saturday, Quinn Hughes set the record for assists in a season by a Vancouver defenseman (56) and tied the best single-season mark by a Canucks blueliner with 63 points.

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.
Where: Climate Pledge Arena
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeartRadio

When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
Where: Rogers Arena
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeartRadio


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