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Kings ransom: With Lakers and Clippers out, L.A. grudgingly turns to hockey

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The Kings replaced their coach midseason after lots of struggling – primarily, figuring out how to score. Still tinkering as the end of the 82-game season approached, a trade for forward Jeff Carter seemed to make something click. Carter has been far from a savior, but with him the team has become more balanced and more difficult to defend – and goals have come, at last.

Even so, their postseason run has been nothing short of astounding. They entered the Stanley Cup playoffs seeded No. 8 of the eight playoff teams in the Western Conference. Since that point, they have won 12 games and lost two against the Nos. 1, 2, and 3 seeds in the West.

“Everything lined up, the stars lined, and it came together at the right point of the season,” Dustin Penner, who scored the series-winning goal against the Phoenix Coyotes Tuesday, told the L.A. Daily News. “We knew once we were in [the playoffs] that it was anybody’s game.”

There is not a sense of celebration in the air around Los Angeles, but if you scratch the surface, you can find it.

“You can’t tell on the streets, but hockey fans here really get into it,” says Wayne Sherman, a medical claims insurer who has lived here since 1982, reading the paper at a corner Starbucks. “This is not as big as when Gretzky was on the team in 1993, but it is still a big deal.”

Dan Lebowitz, director of the Center for the Study of Sport in Society, says the Kings have done much to establish themselves as a viable and important franchise in an area of the country where hockey is not naturally indigenous.

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