Like the three other West Coast teams in the NHL, the Los Angeles Kings are used to spending a bunch of time in airplanes during the regular season.
But in these playoffs — which started with a first-round series against California rival San Jose, and continues now with a match-up against the cross-town rival Ducks — they’ve barely spent any.
“We played St. Louis in the first round last year and it was a five-hour trip home,” said L.A. forward Justin Williams. “This is a 30-minute drive on a five o’clock game. You’re in bed before 10 o’ clock, it’s a piece of cake.”
The Kings aren’t the only team that’s enjoyed limited travel as part of the league’s new playoff format following realignment. The Ducks only had to go to Dallas in the first round; easy, compared to Detroit last year.
“We don’t have a team in the second round that has to travel 400 miles, which is nice in terms of the wear and tear of our athletes,” said NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, per NESN.
There are still potentially long distances to travel in the first and second rounds of the playoffs. Montreal-Tampa Bay was an example of that this season. As long as there are wild-card spots, Vancouver-Nashville remains the longest potential trip.
Related: Bettman discusses expansion
Mike Babcock’s reign with the Detroit Red Wings ended in another first-round defeat, yet it may be lost in time just how close that series was.
Yes, the Tampa Bay Lightning shut down the Red Wings to win Game 7 at home, but Ben Bishop deserves a ton of the credit. The Red Wings snagged the puck for much of the contest, just not enough to beat the big goalie.
While change is in the air in Detroit, the Bolts are largely the same squad that generated a nice showing in the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. We’ll get to see if the Red Wings gain a measure of revenge on NBCSN tonight, with home-ice advantage this time around.
Damon Severson was a healthy scratch on Saturday.
It’s the last game he wants to miss this season.
“I had a good chat with a few people and just pretty much said, ‘I want to be in the next 80 games,’” Severson said, per The Record. “I sat out my game and that’s all I want to be out for for the year.”
Severson is one of the Devils’ most important young players. But this is also the 21-year-old defenseman’s sophomore season, and that’s when slumps can occur.
Hence, the early message he was sent by the coaching staff.
Severson is expected to be back in the lineup tonight when New Jersey hosts Nashville.
“He doesn’t have to be perfect,” coach John Hynes told reporters. “We’d just like to see him have a high compete level. We know he’s ready to go. We had a couple of good meetings with him. He’s in a good spot mentally. I know he’s ready to roll.”