Kings celebrate Cup, plot run at third title in four years

GREG BEACHAM AP Sports Writer Published:

LOS ANGELES (AP) -- Drew Doughty never hesitates to say what the rest of the Los Angeles Kings are only thinking, and the star defenseman's mind was already on a third Stanley Cup title while his teammates celebrated their second on the ice behind him.

"Next year, we're going to want to win it again," Doughty said Friday night after the Kings' double-overtime, Cup-winning victory over the New York Rangers.

With two NHL championships in three years, the Kings are building a hockey dynasty in an unlikely place. Hollywood's team is hardly the most glamorous in the league, but the Kings' commitment to hard work, team defense and playoff excellence puts them in position to contend for years to come.

Los Angeles' core is mostly in its prime, a balanced collection of gritty veterans and promising young talent. The Kings have only three unrestricted free agents, including late-season acquisition Marian Gaborik.

What's more, they've built a culture of winning that got them through a grueling 26-game postseason run that included a 3-0 deficit in the first round, three consecutive seven-game series in the Western Conference playoffs, and three overtime games in the Cup finals.

The Kings have no worlds left to conquer, but they're eager to do it all again when training camp opens in three months -- after an appropriate celebration, of course. They'll have a parade through downtown Los Angeles on Monday.

Indeed, the frequently humorless Quick broke out some sweet dance moves in the Kings' dressing room while they partied with the Cup on Friday night. After captain Dustin Brown carried the Stanley Cup into the room, coach Darryl Sutter took a long drink from the bowl while bubbly and beer sprayed all around him.

The Kings have an enviable leadership tandem in general manager Dean Lombardi and Sutter, two hockey lifers who finally claimed the ultimate prize in the back half of their careers -- and then did it again.

Veteran defensemen Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell are unrestricted free agents, and Dwight King is a restricted free agent. The biggest question mark is Gaborik, who led the NHL postseason with 14 goals after arriving from Columbus in March.

The 32-year-old Slovak wing showed he's still an elite goal-scorer who likely could command a hefty new contract. But after 13 seasons under the microscope of enormous expectations in Minnesota, New York and Columbus, Gaborik seemed grateful to take a complementary role with the Kings -- and he loves living in sunny Los Angeles.

The Kings also must evaluate center Mike Richards, whose offensive production has declined alarmingly from his earlier totals. While Sutter praises him as a key role player, Richards is making an awful lot of money for a glue guy -- an average of $5.75 million over the next six seasons.

But Los Angeles deserves a summer to bask in its remarkable achievements.

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