After a 19-year wait, the Los Angeles Kings have returned to a land last traversed by Wayne Gretzky, Luc Robitaille, Kelly Hrudey and pals: the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Kings didn't make it easy on themselves. After winning the first three games of the Western Conference Finals against Phoenix, the Kings lost Game 4 at home before they won 4-3 in overtime on Tuesday night in Glendale, Ariz.
Now, the Kings have completed one of the oddest, most circular journeys in recent memory. Considered Stanley Cup contenders in October, they slumped throughout November and December and had to fight at the end of the season merely to reach the playoffs as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference.
Going forward, the Kings will rely on the veterans who have carried them this far, plus a mixture of young players who had never been beyond the first round of the NHL playoffs before last month.
Rob Scuderi will be going to his third Stanley Cup Finals in five years, and has one title with Pittsburgh. Colin Fraser, Dustin Penner and Justin Williams have also been champions.
Players such as Jarret Stoll, Matt Greene, Mike Richards and Jeff Carter have also made one previous trip to the Finals, and now will get a second chance to win, as the Kings will face either the New York Rangers or the New Jersey Devils starting a week from Wednesday.
"Obviously you want to win," Stoll said. "You want to get there and you want to win. You don't want to lose. It's been a long journey, and hopefully we can play well and have a good time."