LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - The Los Angeles Kings are three wins away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for a second time in three years and veteran defenseman Matt Greene views this as a window of opportunity that simply has to be taken.
American Greene, 31, is one of six 30-somethings on the Kings’ active 23-man roster and he fully appreciates that many players in the National Hockey League never even get to compete in the championship series.
“You’re not going to be able to do this forever so you have to make sure that you take advantage of when the guys are in their prime and when the guys are playing good hockey,” Greene told Reuters ahead of Saturday’s Game Two.
“We have confidence in our group. A lot of these guys have been together for a long time. We have a good plan. It’s just up to the players to execute it, and all the players have confidence in each other to do that.”
“When you add in key pieces like Tanner (Pearson) and Tyler (Toffoli) up front, guys that are really good and smart in terms of being able to adapt to their roles on the team, you succeed.”
Pearson, aged 21, and Toffoli, 22, played with Jarret Stoll on the first forward shift in Wednesday’s thrilling Game One against the New York Rangers which the Kings won 3-2 in overtime to take a 1-0 lead in the best-of-seven series.
Two years ago, the defense-minded Los Angeles delivered a stunning Cinderella story as they beat the Western Conference’s top three seeds in the playoffs en route to becoming the first eighth seed to win a Stanley Cup.
Greene was on that triumphant team, scoring the last goal of the finals as the Kings beat the New Jersey Devils 6-1 in Game Six, and he believes this year’s roster is very similar in overall strength.
“They are pretty similar Kings teams,” said Greene, who played for the Edmonton Oilers when they lost the 2006 Stanley Cup Finals to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
“Obviously when you get a guy like Gabby (Marian Gaborik), who’s an elite player, he’s going to make you better right away.”
Slovak right wing Gaborik was acquired by the Kings from the Columbus Blue Jackets at the trade deadline three months ago and leads all players this year with 12 postseason goals.
“With the roster we have now, you’re just going to enjoy it and try to get a win, you just want to win every game,” said Greene. “That’s it. That’s how we approach it and that’s how we have done it all year.”
Asked how much of an advantage the Kings might hold over the Rangers with several of their players having tasted recent Stanley Cup success, Greene replied: ”It does help, because you’ve been there before.
”But at the same time we’ve got some key guys who weren’t around for that other run and they’ve been playing great hockey for us all playoffs.
“It’s just a matter of peaking at the right time, making sure you’re ready, and we’ve been doing a good job of that,” said Greene, who was a second-round pick by the Oilers in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft.
Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Frank Pingue