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Former Blackhawk Darryl Sutter fueling the Kings’ fire

Coach Darryl Sutter has Kings two victories away from their first Stanley Cup championship. | Elsa~Getty Images

Coach Darryl Sutter has the Kings two victories away from their first Stanley Cup championship. | Elsa~Getty Images

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Kings lead series 2-0
All games at 7 p.m.

Game 1: Kings 2,
at Devils 1 (OT)

Game 2: Kings 2,
at Devils 1 (OT)

Monday: at Kings, NBCSN

Wednesday: at Kings, NBCSN

x-Saturday: at Devils, Ch. 5

x-June 11: at Kings, Ch. 5

x-June 13: at Devils, Ch. 5

x- if necessary

Updated: July 7, 2012 8:18AM

NEWARK, N.J. — Darryl Sutter’s most entertaining stuff comes when the show is supposedly over and the cameras are off.

The Los Angeles Kings’ cowboy-tough coach still has the bite that has made him successful, but it’s grizzly charm that has left reporters chuckling throughout the Stanley Cup finals.

‘‘OK, gotta hustle, you guys,’’ Sutter said after the Kings took a 2-0 series lead Saturday by beating the New Jersey Devils 2-1 in overtime. ‘‘Let’s get going. Our bus leaves here at midnight, so let’s get them players over here [for postgame interviews] and let’s get moving.

‘‘What time is everybody traveling? . . . It’s almost

Wait, one more question.

‘‘On [Drew] Doughty’s goal . . . ,’’ a late-arriving reporter snuck in.

‘‘Great play. Coast-to-coast, 200-foot-play goal. Win or lose, a highlight,’’ Sutter said, cutting off the reporter and getting laughs for knowingly repeating an earlier
answer with a wry grin.

Sutter had similar mumble-filled moments when he coached the Blackhawks, San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames (for whom he later served as general manager). But he also is remembered as a demanding, call-it-like-he-sees-it man who infuriated some players.

A tough approach based on accountability always has led to success for Sutter, who spent parts of eight seasons as a winger for the Hawks, but it also has run its course and worn thin over time.

That doesn’t matter much now, though. For the time
being, there’s no debating Sutter was the right man to take command of the Kings after they got off to a disappointing start under Terry Murray. The Kings were deemed potential Stanley Cup contenders before the season, but it took a coaching change to Sutter for them to live up to those expectations.

‘‘When you need a kick in the butt, he gives you a kick in the butt; when you need a pat on the back, he gives you a pat on the back,’’ forward Colin Fraser said. ‘‘He’s a tough coach, for sure, but he’s a fair coach.’’

Sutter didn’t come in, wipe the chalkboard clean and start with a completely new strategy. Like there was under Murray, there is an emphasis on defense.

But Sutter had talented players who needed to play better — such as Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Mike Richards — at his disposal. Only goalie Jonathan Quick was delivering on a nightly basis. The Kings needed goals, not more blocked shots.

So Sutter loosened the reins and allowed his skilled players to play like it. He challenged and confronted them to be great.

‘‘He’s hard on us,’’ Richards said. ‘‘On the bench, he’s an intense guy. He really goes out there to get every single drop out of you. That’s what you
expect; that’s what you want.’’

The Kings went 25-13-11 after Sutter took over in
December. And he continues to challenge them in the playoffs, particularly Doughty.

Before Game 2, Sutter said he still was waiting for the 22-year-old defenseman to play at his best. Doughty responded with his ‘‘coast-to-coast’’ goal and was a force all game.

When Sutter resigned from the Hawks in 1995 to devote more time to his family, bad times soon followed. The Hawks made it to the conference finals in Sutter’s last season, then made the playoffs in only three of the next 12 seasons.

A lot of years have gone by since then, but Sutter hasn’t changed. Every Kings player described him as honest. There are no hidden messages, just straightforwardness and some quirky motivational sayings from a man who’d be on a farm if he didn’t have the Kings two victories away from their — and his — first Cup.

‘‘The feed bag is the best [saying]: ‘Strap on the feed bag,’ ’’ Fraser said. ‘‘We get a couple of chuckles. Everybody thinks he’s a crazy, intimidating guy. But he’s actually got a pretty good sense of humor, and he’s a great coach.’’

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