Headed in opposite directions, Flames & Kings to battle in LA
Last season, the Calgary Flames finished nine points out of the playoffs. On Sunday night, they completed an incredible turnaround for the 2018-19 regular season.
Going into Monday's clash with the Los Angeles Kings in Southern California, the Flames have the distinction of claiming their first division title since the 2005-06 season and first conference crown since 1989-90.
"We've had a good year, a good regular season, but we know the work lies ahead in the playoffs," captain Mark Giordano told reporters on Sunday. "But we won't take this for granted. It's an accomplishment."
The Flames (49-23-7, 105 points) meet the Kings, who will finish last in the Western Conference, after a 5-3 victory in San Jose on Sunday. Calgary has won eight of its last 11.
The Flames will face the second wild card winner, likely either the Colorado Avalanche or Arizona Coyotes, in the opening round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
"We still have some games to show up for," Calgary defenseman Dalton Prout, who scored his first NHL goal in nearly three years against the Sharks, told Sportsnet FAN 960 after the game. "We're going to take care of the details and not roll over. We're going to go about our work ... and get prepared for the playoffs.
"This isn't our end goal, we have a ton of work ahead of us, but we're going to relish this."
While the Kings (29-40-9, 67 points) haven't had much to celebrate this season, the clash will provide a couple of highlights.
Dustin Brown will be honored for skating in his 1,112th game for the team last Thursday, which moved him ahead of Dave Taylor -- who drafted Brown in 2003 as the club's general manager -- as the franchise's all-time games-played leader.
Plus, captain Anze Kopitar is to skate in his 1,000th NHL game, all with the Kings.
"Being a kid from Slovenia, you always dream about playing in the NHL, and to reach 1,000 games, it's pretty special," Kopitar told the Los Angeles Times. "It's something that I'm definitely going to need a little bit of time to sink in and really kind of understand what it means to me."
Kopitar, who has won two Stanley Cup championships and a pair of Selke trophies as the league's best defensive forward, believes he has many more games in him.
"I sure hope so," the 31-year-old said. "Once you get up there in age, it's obviously a big factor if the body holds up and all that. I've been pretty fortunate. Hockey is something that I absolutely love and I don't see much (in) doing anything else but playing hockey, so I'm going to go for as long as I can."
The Kings are on a 4-1-1 run and coming off a 3-2 overtime victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
"It is frustrating this season, but anytime you win it feels great, so that's a really good team, they're fighting for their life over there with Chicago," goalie Jack Campbell told NHL.com after the game. "We knew that they'd come out and play really hard and I thought that they played great and I'm fortunate that the boys played really, really well in front of me and it feels good to win in overtime for sure."
--Field Level Media
Updated April 1, 2019