Kings whipped into shape

Kings head coach Darryl Sutter talks to his players during a timeout against the Canucks in Game 4...

Kings head coach Darryl Sutter talks to his players during a timeout against the Canucks in Game 4 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal series at the Staples Center in Los Angeles, Calif., April 18, 2012. (DANNY MOLOSHOK/Reuters)

CHRIS STEVENSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 2:58 AM ET

EL SEGUNDO, CALIF. - Darryl Sutter has a voice like a gravel road in rural Alberta.

He rumbles more than talks.

It didn’t take Kings forward Anze Kopitar -- a Slovenian who speaks his native language along with some Serbian, German, Swedish and English -- long to figure out his best chance of understanding the new coach.

“On the ice, you just want to make sure you get pretty close to him,” Kopitar said.

Sutter might be hard to understand at times, but his message is getting through to the Kings, who can advance to the Stanley Cup final with a win against the Phoenix Coyotes Sunday afternoon in Game 4 of the Western Conference final.

The Kings were 25-13-11 in the regular season after Sutter took over from Terry Murray Dec. 22.

They are now 11-1 in these playoffs.

The Kings now have a chance to become the first team since the NHL made every series a best-of-seven affair 25 years ago to reach the final in just 13 games.

Ask around the Kings dressing room about what Sutter has brought to the mix and there’s a couple of things that come up: they play a more aggressive, up-tempo game and are better prepared.

“Just a little more aggressive. He wanted us to be the hardest working team,” Kopitar said. “When you work hard, I think the skill comes out, too, and he’s done a good job of that.”

Veteran defenceman Willie Mitchell thinks the edge Sutter gives the team is the way he gets ramped up for games.

“I’ve only been here for the last year and a half, but I think they’ve had some young players, to be honest, they needed some better preparation, some better focus, especially in this market. I think (Sutter) definitely brings that. He makes sure everyone is prepared and they’re ready to go. You can see the intensity, his passion for game day and it rubs off on everyone,” Mitchell said.

“So it’s like the leader in any company, right? CEOs, if they have that passion it just going to filter throughout the company. The coach is your leader, he has to be that guy for us. When he has that passion and intensity it filters down through the rest of the team.”

“Try and harp on the details to them,” Sutter said when asked how he would have his team ready to try and close out the series Sunday. “Hopefully they have the preparation skills to do that.”

Preparation is always important, but particularly so for Sunday because the game starts at noon local time.

Then there’s what is expected to be a crazy atmosphere around the Staples Center with the Tour of California bike race taking place outside. The Kings were moving Saturday night into a downtown hotel so they could walk to the rink and avoid the impending traffic Armageddon.

“It’s only a mile walk downhill,” Sutter said. “I’ve done that. It’s actually a little bit more than a mile. How many blocks is that, like 12 blocks or something?”

The players have played a noon game before in these playoffs, so they know about adjusting their eating schedule to make sure they are ready.

“A noon game for me, the only challenge is I prefer lunch as opposed to breakfast before a game,” Kings captain Dustin Brown said. “There’s not any time to eat lunch. (Sunday) I’ll wake up, have a little bit of breakfast and I’ll have pasta just out of habit. Normally I’ll eat at one o-clock for a 7:00 or 7:30 game. Now, it’s crunch time so I just won’t eat as much, but I’ll have a good dinner (Saturday) night. I’ll get up a little earlier, probably eat at 9:00 and head over to the rink.”

What’s on the menu?

“Eggs, bacon and maybe a piece of French toast.”

Then a chance to make the Coyotes toast.

chris.stevenson@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/CJ_Stevenson


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