Doughty doesn't melt under pressure


EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- If there is a team in the NHL that doesn't shrink under the weight of an elimination game, it is certainly the Los Angeles Kings.

And if there's a player who has risen up in those moments, it has to be Drew Doughty.

In 2014, he's a perfect 7-0 in win-or-go-home games between the Sochi Olympics and the first round of the NHL playoffs. And it's no coincidence.

The bigger the stakes, the more Doughty relishes being in the spotlight. He was easily the best defenseman at the Olympics in helping Team Canada capture gold and was very much the best skater on either side when the Kings rallied back from a 3-0 series deficit to stun the San Jose Sharks last round.

The Kings need their superstar defenseman to raise his game once again when they face elimination Wednesday night at Staples Center.

"I love these opportunities, I love the pressure," Doughty said matter-of-factly Tuesday. "I know that going into these situations I'm going to be counted upon, and in order for us to win, I've got to be at the top of my game, so I just look forward to these opportunities. I just want to go out there and play well defensively -- that's always my main thing, shutting down the other team's top line, and then after that, trying to get involved in the offense -- and still don't think I've played my absolute best this series, so I'm going to need to do it at home tomorrow."

Talk is cheap unless you can back up those words, but when it comes to the Kings the past few years, they have indeed backed it up and accumulated the kind of big-game knowledge that is crucial in these moments.

Between a Stanley Cup championship in 2012, last spring's final-four appearance in a Cup hangover year and this April's monumental comeback versus a very good Sharks team, the Kings have seen it all.

It's why when reading the body language of Doughty or coach Darryl Sutter on Tuesday, you didn't sense any kind of trepidation with their season possibly on the brink. The coach and the superstar spoke confidently without sounding cocky, knowingly without being disrespectful of a Ducks team that's very much deserving of its 3-2 series lead.

They been here, done that.

"Yeah, you know what, I think I've been through it more than any of them," Sutter said. "At the end of the day, there's probably not many coaches that have been in as many [elimination] games, so that's something I'm comfortable with."

But just how comfortable can you get having your backs against the wall?

"I'd rather be playing a Game 6 in May than be playing Game 82 on the 15th of April and saying, 'Oh, I can't wait to watch the playoffs,'" said Sutter. "Teams are close, and as a coach, you go in expecting to win every game. If you don't, you shouldn't be in this league. And we've been down that road. We go in expecting to win every game. Obviously, that doesn't happen, or someone would go 82-0 and someone would go 16-0.

"But if you have that mindset, it's a good one to have."

Quite honest, to borrow a Sutter-ism, the Kings were fortunate to be up 2-0 in this series, tying Game 1 with seven seconds left, outshot 37-17 in Game 2, but still coming up aces. They ran out of breaks in the next three games.

"We haven't played our best hockey," star winger Marian Gaborik conceded Tuesday.

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