The Kings on Thursday assigned forward Nick Shore and goalie J.F. Berube to their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H. Shore made his NHL debut Saturday against the Ducks and recorded his first point, an assist, Wednesday against the Sharks. Berube has yet to play in his first NHL game. He was selected recently to play in the AHL All-Star game.
Here’s what Kings center and leading scorer Anze Kopitar told reporters after the team went into the All-Star break with a 4-2 loss Wednesday to the San Jose Sharks that left them in ninth place in the Western Conference (and out of a playoff spot) with a 20-15-12 record: “We’re disappointed in where we are in the standings right now. “We have to take the next few days to figure that out. It’s time to play desperate coming out of the break.”
The Kings gave up two power-play goals to the San Jose Sharks in three shorthanded situations during a 4-2 loss Wednesday at the SAP Center, continuing a troubling trend going into the All-Star break. The Kings’ penalty-killing unit is 25th in the 30-team NHL at the break with a lackluster 77.8 percent success rate. For a team that prides itself on hard work and a blue-collar attitude, that’s truly hard to believe. Penalty-killing is often about goaltending, as Kings coach Darryl Sutter will tell you, but it’s also about hustle and desire and also staying out of the penalty box. The Kings average 10.4 penalty minutes per game, ranking as the 12th-most penalized team in the league, and that’s a problem if their PK is not good enough.
“We have to do a better job in certain areas,” Kings defenseman Robyn Regehr told reporters Wednesday. “Tonight, the penalty kill, you can’t afford to give up two power-play goals against and really expect to win too many games, especially on he road. It’s a tough hole to dig yourselves out of when that happens.”
With defenseman Robyn Regehr back in the lineup after a 12-game absence because of a broken finger, the Kings decided Wednesday to loan Jeff Schultz to their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H. Schultz suddenly was the odd-man out in the Kings’ defense corps after Regher returned Monday. He played nine games for the Kings and had one assist. He also played in 26 games earlier this season with Manchester and recorded three goals and six assists.
There’s been a great deal of talk about the Kings’ lack of consistency this season, and granted some of it has been typed into yours truly’s keyboard. But consider this: since the Kings’ six-game early-season winning streak (all at Staples Center, by the way) improved the team’s record to 6-1-1, the club is 14-13-11. That’s a fairly pedestrian record that includes a 2-1 overtime loss Monday to the Calgary Flames.
The Kings have lost eight consecutive games in overtime or a shootout.
So, maybe this is who they are right now: a middle-of-the-pack team.
Defenseman Robyn Regehr sat out for 12 games after breaking a finger during the Kings’ victory Dec. 18 over the St. Louis Blues. His return to the lineup Monday was welcomed by the Kings, but it wasn’t exactly a winning reunion. The Kings suffered a 2-1 overtime loss to the Calgary Flames. Regehr couldn’t make it through the opening shift of the game without getting hurt. He deflected a puck into his lip and was forced to the dressing room for immediate repairs.
“It felt really good to get back out on the ice again,” Regehr said after he played 18:26, recorded a team-leading seven hits and was on the ice for both of the Flames’ goals. “It’s never fun when you’re injured and have to watch the games from the stands or underneath (in the dressing room). As players, we want to be out there playing and trying to help the team win and also be involved with the teammates. So, it felt really nice to be doing that again.
“There was a little bit of a transition there for me. I had a rough start in the first shift, with deflecting the puck into my lip, but I managed to get back into the game a little after that.”
The Kings on Monday activated defenseman Robyn Regehr (broken hand) from injured reserve and placed goaltender Martin Jones (back spasms) on IR. Regehr is expected to play in Monday’s game against the Calgary Flames. Regehr skated with Alec Martinez during the Kings’ morning skate in El Segundo. Jones’ place as backup to Jonathan Quick will be filled by J.F. Berube.
Tomorrow’s notebook lead today …
The Kings were far from flawless during their 3-2 shootout loss Saturday to the NHL-leading Ducks at Staples Center, but a return to a more disciplined and well-ordered game was “a step in the right direction,” captain Dustin Brown said Sunday.
Brown called the shootout a “crap shoot,” a reference to the Kings’ 1-7 record this season in the skills contest. Kings shooters are a woeful 2 for 28 in eight shootouts, which includes misfires from Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik on Saturday against the Ducks’ Frederik Andersen.
Jakob Silfverberg scored the only goal in the shootout and the Ducks (30-10-6) increased their lead over the Kings (20-14-11) in the Pacific Division to 15 points. Alec Martinez and Kopitar scored in regulation for the Kings. Ryan Getzlaf and Sami Vatanen scored for the Ducks.
The bottom line in a bottom line game is that the Kings’ play was dramatically improved over recent games, including a dreary 5-3 loss Wednesday to the lackluster New Jersey Devils. The Kings were far better defensively and in goal Saturday against the Ducks.
The Kings squandered leads of 1-0 and 2-1, but they didn’t give up goals in bunches, as they did against the Devils, who scored three times in 68 seconds in the second period. The Kings played the Ducks even in special teams, with each team clicking once on the power play.
However, the Kings were outshot 31-28 by the Ducks, the first time they’ve been outshot since Nov. 29, a remarkable run that hasn’t translated into victories. The Kings have lost two in a row and are 3-3-4 in their last 10 games going into Monday night’s home contest against the Calgary Flames.
The Kings awoke Sunday in ninth place in the Western Conference, one spot behind the Flames. Only the top eight teams in each conference advance to the playoffs, and in order to defend their Stanley Cup championship, the Kings must finish in the top eight.
“We played a really good hockey game, but we didn’t close it out coming into the third period,” Gaborik said Saturday after Vatanen, a defenseman, scored a tying power-play goal in the third. “The shootout has been an issue for the whole year.
“The points are getting away from us in the shootout, so we just need to find a way to put some goals in. We’ve been practicing a bit, but we just have to get it done. We have enough talent for the guys to score goals. We just need to get the one win and the confidence level will go up.”
The Kings’ Nick Shore made his NHL debut Saturday, logging 10 minutes, 35 seconds of ice time in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks. He was credited with one shot and said Sunday he felt at home in the Kings’ lineup after he was recalled from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., last week.
Nick, 22, could face his brother, Drew, if both are in their lineups Monday night when the Kings play host to the Flames at Staples Center. Drew Shore, 23, made his NHL debut for the Flames in Thursday’s victory over the Arizona Coyotes.
“I haven’t seen him play in a bit,” Nick Shore said after Sunday’s optional practice when asked for a scouting report on Drew. “Sometimes I catch his games. We have similarities. We see the game the same way. He plays a little more north-south than I do. It’s the same sort of thing. He likes being a good responsible player in all three (zones), and then, hopefully, the offense comes.”