Martin Jones earns another start in goal for the L.A. Kings

Martin Jones earned a second consecutive start in goal for the Kings after shutting out the Toronto Maple Leafs 2-0 on Monday. He hadn’t started for a month, since a 6-2 loss Dec. 12 to the Montreal Canadiens, but was razor sharp against the Maple Leafs. His only other appearance was a relief stint after Kings coach Darryl Sutter pulled Jonathan Quick after three goals on nine shots Dec. 3 against the Nashville Predators. Jones gave up four goals in a 7-6 overtime loss to the Predators.

“He hadn’t played in a month, so I don’t know if he bounced back,” Sutter said of Jones. “We need both our goalies to win games. That’s all we’re doing. We want to give Quick a chance to get six or more days between games, and we need our other goalie to win games. It’s not bounce back. It’s either you win or you lose. If we had won the other night, then Quick would have played tonight.” Got it? Good.

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New York Rangers still remember Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in double-OT in Game 5. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

Kings defenseman Alec Martinez scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in double-OT in Game 5. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

Remember this? The New York Rangers certainly do. They face the Kings on Thursday at Staples Center for the first time since Alec Martinez’s goal in double-overtime sent the Rangers home without the Stanley Cup. The Rangers begin a three-game trip to California on Wednesday against the Ducks in Anaheim. Their minds were focused on the Kings and a return to Staples Center, however.

“I think it will always be in the back of the memory,” New York’s Rick Nash told Rangers beat reporters the other day. “I think the rest of your life, whenever you say L.A., that memory will come up. But in saying that, it’s a new season, so it doesn’t really matter what happened last season.”

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Pregame reading: L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks about the team’s play

Here’s Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s assessment of the team’s inconsistent play:

“I think that’s what everybody’s said. That’s been a frequently-used word this year, but if you look at the last little bit … our issue would be goals-against, no question. We’re scoring right around three and we’re giving up right around three the last 10 games. That’s not going to get you very far in this league.

“That’s fun to talk about. If you score three, that’s great. But a lot of times it’s still that number, giving up three. If you look at it just since the first of the month, if you’re an analytic guy, we’ve dominated games, quite honest. We’ve dominated games … not just puck possession, which is what you guys use. That’s what anybody goes back to because they don’t understand the game.

“So, it’s probably the bad goal or the odd-man rush or the turnover.”

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Team captain Dustin Brown talks about the L.A. Kings play

Here’s what Kings captain Dustin Brown had to say about the team’s play as it nears the midpoint of its Stanley Cup title defense:

“If you look at our game, there’s a lot of peaks and valleys. It’s kind of a catch-22. If we knew exactly why it was happening, it wouldn’t be happening. A lot of it is probably just preparation on an individual level.

“We pay attention to the standings all year. It’s about keeping pace with the herd. We’re right there. We just need to find ways to win games. It’s about our consistency, really. I think if we’re more consistent in our game, the standings, we won’t have to worry about too much.

“Division games are always … look at the game we played (against the Calgary Flames last Monday). People say, ‘Well, you got a point out of it.” But we gave two points away. That’s a four-point game and they got two and we got one.”

The Kings face the Flames on Monday in a rematch in Calgary.

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L.A. Kings quote of the day … or all you really need to know about their state of mind

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.”



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What to watch Thursday when the L.A. Kings play the Ottawa Senators

Here are a couple of things to watch when the Kings face off against the Ottawa Senators on Thursday at the Canadian Tire Center:

First, the Kings are 3-5-1 on the road after Tuesday’s 1-0 loss to the Sabres in Buffalo, which helped to explain why they were fifth in the Pacific Division and ninth in the Western Conference at the start of business Wednesday. The defending Stanley Cup champion Kings appeared headed for an early vacation rather than a playing for a chance to defend their title.

Second, a poor road record plus a lack of scoring depth have been costly for the Kings (14-9-5). Anze Kopitar, their leading scorer last season, has only five goals and 12 points. Mike Richards has only four goals and 10 points. Marian Gaborik, their leading goal-scorer in the playoffs, has four goals and eight points in 16 injury-plagued games. Gaborik returned to the lineup Tuesday after a four-game absence because of an upper-body injury.

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Three things to watch during the L.A. Kings five-game trip

Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks to players during practice at the Staples Center last June. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks to players during practice at the Staples Center last June. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Kings begin a five-game trip Tuesday against the Sabres in Buffalo, N.Y. Here are three things to watch as they tramp through the snowy climes in Buffalo, Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and St. Louis:

First, the King simply have to be better on the road than their 3-4-4 record to start the season. Few teams have played fewer road games than the KIngs at this point in the season, so things either have to pick up or the Kings are going to find themselves in great difficulty later in the season. This is a team, after all, that won three Game 7s on the road last season in the playoffs. Their showing away from Staples Center has been troubling to start 2014-15, however.

Second, Kings coach Darryl Sutter could reunite That 70s Line of Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli if and when Marian Gaborik returns to the lineup after sitting out the last four games because of an upper-body injury. Gaborik is said to be close and could be back in the lineup Tuesday against the Sabres. Pearson, Carter and Toffoli were the Kings’ only effective line to start the season. They are the only ones with seven goals or more, with Pearson and Toffoli leading the way with 10 apiece. They weren’t as effective apart as they were together. The Kings lack scoring punch, which is hardly a news bulletin. They need those three playing together and clicking together, because they can’t get by with a wonky offense.

Third, the Kings need Gaborik healthy and productive. He signed a seven-season, $34-million contract last June to stay with the Kings. The team needs him to be on the ice and contributing. With only four goals and eight points in 15 games so during this injury-plagued season, the Kings’ investment in him looks rather unwise.



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Looking ahead to the Kings game Tuesday against the Nashville Predators

Here are a few things to watch when the Kings face the Predators in Nashville:

The Kings’ three-game trip continues with a stop in Nashville to play the rejuvenated Predators (13-5-2). The Kings are 11-6-4 overall, but only 1-4-3 away from the cavernous confines of Staples Center. They began their trip by falling behind the Dallas Stars by three goals en route to a 5-4 loss Saturday

Kings coach Darryl Sutter continues to overplay defenseman Drew Doughty, who was on the ice for a career-high 33 minutes, 7 seconds Saturday. Injuries and the indefinite suspension of Slava Voynov have left the Kings shorthanded on the blue line. Sutter would prefer to play Doughty less and has acknowledged the harm in overworking him.

The Kings received salary-cap relief from the NHL last week in the Voynov case, but haven’t exercised their flexibility to recall anyone from Manchester (N.H.) of the AHL. Alec Martinez has been skating, but it’s uncertain when he’ll be sound enough to play after he underwent finger surgery.

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What to watch when the L.A. Kings play host to the Florida Panthers

For starters, Florida Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell makes his Los Angeles return Tuesday night to face the Kings, the team he helped win Stanley Cup championships last season and in 2012. Mitchell, who signed a two-season, $8.5-million contract with the Panthers during the offseason is one of a number of players who make the Panthers more formidable than anticipated.

Second, Florida (6-4-5) has victories over the Ducks and San Jose Sharks, a pair of Western Conference elite teams, within the last week. The Panthers thumped the Ducks 6-2 on Sunday. Kings defenseman Alec Martinez is expected to be sidelined for about a week after undergoing finger surgery Friday.

Third, the Kings (9-5-4) ended a two-game losing streak with a 3-2 overtime victory Saturday over the Ducks. Tyler Toffoli leads the Kings with eight goals, and rookie Tanner Pearson has seven. Toffoli also has a team-leading 10 assists.

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