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.”
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.”
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 fell to 1-7 in shootouts with a 3-2 loss Saturday to the Ducks at Staples Center, which helps to explain why they are scrambling to hold onto a playoff spot. Their shooters are a woeful 2 for 28 after Jeff Carter, Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik failed to score against the Ducks’ Frederik Andersen.
“We just can’t pick the right guys,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “I think we (picked) really well. Jeff, Kopi and Gabby. If you were betting on the game in shootouts, wouldn’t you choose Jeff, Kopi and Gabby?”
The Kings’ record of 20-14-11 left them in fifth place in the Pacific Division.
The Kings got back to their grinding defensive style of play during a 2-0 victory Monday over the Toronto Maple Leafs at Staples Center. No more running-and-gunning for the Kings, who played the sort of style that carried them to Stanley Cup championships in 2012 and ’14 but was absent during a three-game losing streak.
“We are a physical team,” Kings defenseman Drew Doughty said. “That’s how we wear other teams down. We get in on the forecheck. When they’re in our ‘D-zone’ we make it miserable for them to be down there. We did a better job of that tonight, but I think that we still have some room for improvement.”
Speed kills. The New York Rangers proved it Thursday during a 4-3 victory over the Kings at Staples Center in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers skated around the flat-footed Kings again and again, especially during a three-goal second period. Here’s more on the subject from Kings coach Darryl Sutter:
“We had trouble keeping up with a fast team. There’s two ways of neutralizing speed: be fast yourself or slow them down. Even on the (Jeff) Carter line, we couldn’t handle it.
“You can’t take penalties. You need to be able to skate with them. You need to have the speed in your lineup to do it. You have to be able to check and some top players tonight were not in the checking mood.
“You can’t give up four goals and expect to win. Ever.”
The Kings held an optional practice Wednesday in El Segundo, a day after their 5-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues completed their lackluster 1-3-1 trip. Here was the money quote, courtesy team captain Dustin Brown: “If you’re not excited about playing tomorrow after what happened in St. Louis, we have bigger issues.”
The Kings’ scoring struggles are nothing new. They had one goal in two games plus one period before taking the ice to start the second Thursday in Ottawa. Then erupted for three in the final period, breaking a 2-2 tie with the Senators and holding on for a 5-3 victory. The Kings improved to 12-2-1 in their last 15 games with Ottawa, dating to Jan. 16, 2001. They also have won four in a row over the Sens.
Defenseman Jake Muzzin tied a career high with three assists.
Trevor Lewis scored the game-winning goal, his first GWG since last March 22.
Drew Doughty had two assists for his third multi-point game of the season.
(Thanks to the NHL’s crack stat crew for the facts and figures).
Here’s a link to a pretty dry AP story: http://www.dailynews.com/sports/20141211/kings-spoil-dave-camerons-debut-as-senators-coach-win-at-ottawa
Here’s a better one from the Ottawa Sun: http://www.ottawasun.com/2014/12/11/kings-spoil-camerons-senators-debut://