Defenseman Willie Mitchell says Kings must improve play on the penalty-kill

After a four-game stretch in which the Kings did not give up a power-play goal, they’ve hit a skid that dropped them into 22nd place in the NHL, as of Wednesday morning. They are 50 of 63 on the penalty-kill for a rather pedestrian 79.4 percent success rate after 15 games. They have given up at least one power-play in six consecutive games going into Thursday’s contest against the Buffalo Sabres.

“We have great penalty-killers up front when we’re all healthy,” veteran defenseman Willie Mitchell said Wednesday. “We have great penalty-killers on the back end. We’ve got a world-class goaltender and we all have that belief that we should be that good. When we go out there that’s our mindset.

“We were on a really good run there early in the year, then we had a hiccup where we had a game where I don’t think our fundamentals got off too much, but three goals were three goals. After that, I guess we haven’t played with a swagger out on the penalty-kill like maybe we should have.”

Mitchell referred to the Kings’ 3-2 loss Oct. 21 to the Calgary Flames, with all three goals coming while the opposition was on the power play. The Kings gave up the go-ahead goal while center Anze Kopitar, their best penalty-killer, was in the penalty box for hooking late in the game.

“Sometimes you start thinking about it,” Mitchell said. “Sometimes you do stuff that’s a little too much. Sometimes less is more in this game. I’m not saying less intensity. I’m saying less running around, less trying to do too much.

“We’ve been focusing what we do as a group and less on what other teams are doing as a group, because the penalty-kill has been really good here the last two, three, four years. Mostly it’s teams coming here worrying about how we penalty-kill instead of us worrying about their power play. That’s what we’ve been trying to do (during a four-day break between games), is re-set the dial and worrying about what we do and play to our strengths on the penalty-kill and let the other teams worry about trying to make adjustments to how we play it.”

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