NHL Playoffs

Kings don't need no stinkin' matchups

By Chris Stevenson, Special to Postmedia Network



Darryl Sutter has a pretty clear position when it comes to matchups.

"Teams that chase matchups," said the Los Angeles Kings coach, "end up chasing the puck."

Of course, it's easy for him to say that.

Sutter has four strong centres who are great in their roles, so, for the most part, no matter who he has on the ice, it's probably not going to be a great detriment to his team.

Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards, Jarret Stoll and Colin Fraser are a pretty strong group up against the Phoenix Coyotes guys in the middle -- Michal Hanzal, Antoine Vermette, Boyd Gordon and Daymond Langkow.

"When you have Anze Kopitar and Mike Richards as your 1-2 or vice versa, that's a big two right there," said Stoll. "When they are on top of their game like they are right now, it's tough to stand up to those guys and out-battle them and out-work them and out-compete them."

The Kopitar line, with Dustin Brown and Justin Williams on the wings, dominated the Coyotes -- it seemed the Hanzal line was on the ice a lot of the time against them -- in the Kings' series-opening 4-2 win Sunday night. They combined for 15 shots and two goals.

A big key for the Coyotes in Game 2 Tuesday night is doing a better job against Kopitar and Brown, but that's probably what the Vancouver Canucks and the St. Louis Blues were saying when they played the Kings.

"We got out-competed and pretty much lost everything. They out-competed us. It's that simple," said Hanzal. "(Brown) is a tough player to play against. He's really fast, he can score and he likes to hit guys. It's a great line. Kopitar is real strong on the puck, he can hold it, and Brown, he can score.

"Williams is a really underrated player because he has big skills and he's strong on the puck, as well. It's a big line, but I think we have a great team to shut them down and that's what we're going to do, pretty much.

"I think we have four lines and every single line can play against Brown, Kopitar, whatever. Everybody has to raise their level and we'll be fine."

Tippett said he's not married to any particular matchups.

"Well, sometimes it depends how the game's going," he said. "You got some players that have the ability to be better than others on one night and others that have the ability to be better than others on another night."

Sutter said with being on the road and not having the last change -- and with the quick faceoffs -- he doesn't concern himself too much with the matchups. Winning doesn't hurt, either.

"We're the visiting team. They get the matchups they want," he said. "It's very difficult in the NHL the way it is now, the way it's officiated, the way your timeouts are, to change on the fly.

"It's very, very difficult. When you're not a home-ice team, you don't always get the matchups you want. That's why you need balance on your team, right?"

Stoll said the Kings are a confident bunch right now and it doesn't matter who lines up against them.

"We played our game," Stoll said. "No matter what happened during the course of the the game, we just stuck with it. We rolled four lines and we rolled six D. We tried to keep the tempo and the pace high and go from there.

"Matchups? I didn't see it as a big thing in Game 1. I know our line played against probably all four of their lines. I don't know what they want for matchups. We know how we play and we don't even worry about the matchups. It's not even an issue for us because we know all four lines can play. All four centremen can play in every situation. When you have that, it's pretty important, it's pretty key."

It was a big key in the Kings' win in Game 1.

Now we get to see what the Coyotes can do about it in Game 2.

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