EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Jeff Carter realizes how smooth the Los Angeles Kings' 6-1 run through the postseason must look from the outside.
The power forward knows most people don't realize how the Western Conference's eighth seeds had to grind, scratch and scrape just to get a chance to look so good.
"The last month of the regular season, we were playing playoff hockey," Carter said Tuesday after the Kings returned from consecutive victories in St. Louis to open their second-round series.
"We had to fight just to get in, and once you get in, anything can happen with how close the teams are," he added. "An eight seed doesn't really mean anything once you're in. Anything can happen. That month before the playoffs started has helped us. We just kept rolling the way we've been playing. It's good."
And it keeps getting better heading into Game 3 on Thursday night. The West's lowest seeds are in a commanding position after winning twice in St. Louis with gritty road efforts that left the hard-nosed Blues criticizing their own work ethic and defense.
For a franchise with no Stanley Cup championships and just one playoff series victory in the previous 18 years, the Kings are adapting splendidly to the high stakes and physical style of the NHL postseason. After blowing out top-seeded Vancouver in the opening round, they've largely dominated the West's top two teams.
Yet the Kings know it's not nearly as simple as it looked in Vancouver and St. Louis. Anze Kopitar believes there's no chance of overconfidence against the powerful Blues when they return to Staples Center, where Los Angeles has lost six of its last seven postseason games.
"We're definitely feeling good right now," said Kopitar, whose deflating short-handed goal in Game 2 was set up by captain Dustin Brown's hustle. "Getting into that building (where) they've had so much success and winning both games puts us in a great spot, but it's not over yet. They have a great team. They can turn it around pretty quick."
After replacing coach Terry Murray with Darryl Sutter at midseason, Los Angeles finished the regular season with a 9-2-3 push, earning a playoff spot right before its 81st game. Sutter might be the overseer of this playoff run, but the crusty veteran coach insists he's "just along for the ride" in this postseason surge, claiming the Kings figured it out for themselves from midseason onward.