Kings at Calgary
Tonight, 6 PDT TV: FS West Wild-card standings
CALGARY, Canada — What would Jonas Hiller have said if someone told him on, say Oct. 1, that a playoff spot might come down to the Kings and Calgary Flames in the second-to-last game of the regular season?
“I thought he was probably crazy or whatever,” Hiller said. The Flames goalie paused. “I was hoping he would tell the truth,” he said. “Now being here and having that chance, having it in our own hands to qualify for the playoffs is definitely something. It was a goal. But how realistic it was . . . at the end, you always believe in it.”
Thursday’s game between the Kings and Calgary could determine plenty or very little. A loss in regulation and the defending Stanley Cup champion Kings will not make the playoffs. If the Flames win in regulation, they are in the playoffs for the first time since 2009.
The Kings’ stunning loss to the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night meant that the Kings no longer have control over their playoff fate. Kings defenseman Drew Doughty compared Thursday’s contest to a Game 7 in the playoffs.
“We’ll have to treat it that way,” Doughty said after Wednesday’s practice at the Saddledome. “It’s a must-win game. It’s our only shot to still get in the playoffs. We’re going to have to play that L.A. Kings style of game, a physical game, play well defensively.
“If we only win by one goal, that’s fine. We need to win in regulation and treat it as a Game 7.”
To start, the Kings need to get some scoring from up front.
They have only one goal from a forward, Dwight King , in their last two games. King scored against Vancouver, and Doughty and fellow defenseman Jake Muzzin had powerplay goals against the Oilers.
“It’s tough to win when only your defensemen are scoring goals,” Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said.
They are more familiar with Hiller because of his long tenure with the Anaheim Ducks. Accordingly, that cuts the other way too.
“I’ve played those guys probably more than any other team,” Hiller said. “It definitely makes it a little different knowing they’re the defending Stanley Cup champion. They have been in the playoffs the last few years, all the time. It makes it a little special. I know it’s not going to be an easy game. They’re going to put everything out there.”
There are not any major lineup changes expected for the Kings. For the Flames, forward Lance Bouma is day-to-day, meaning Brandon Bollig is expected to play. Bollig faced the Kings in the Western Conference finals last season as a member of the Chicago Blackhawks, who lost in seven games.
“Usually I play my better games when I’m playing against bigger, tougher teams that are made for the playoffs,” Bollig said. “They’ve been around. They know what they need to do.”
It gets slightly complicated at this stage in terms of playoff scenarios. The simple part: If the Kings lose at Calgary in regulation, they will be eliminated.
The Kings also would be eliminated Thursday if they lose in overtime or a shootout and Winnipeg earns a point at Colorado.
If Winnipeg earns two points over its last two games, the Kings will be eliminated from a wild-card playoff spot.
The Flames need two points in their last two games to get in. They could lose in overtime to both the Kings and Winnipeg on Saturday and that would be enough to make it.
There are more scenarios, but bottom line: The Kings enter Thursday two points behind the Flames in the Pacific Division and three behind the Jets in the wild-card race. The Kings hold the tiebreaker against Winnipeg, but not against Calgary.
Scoreboard watching, awaits.
AT CALGARY When: 6 PDT. On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790. Etc.: Sutter went out of his way to compliment Flames second-year center Sean Monahan, putting him in a group with the likes of Chicago’s Jonathan Toews. Monahan has eight-game winning goals and 31 overall. “I don’t think Monahan gets enough credit in the league,” Sutter said. “Everybody talks about the centermen in this conference and they don’t talk about Sean Monahan and they should.”
FLAMES GOALIE Jonas Hiller can help his team determine its playoff fate.