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.”
A link to a great story.
Here’s a great look at emerging superstar P.K. Subban of the Montreal Canadiens: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/12/15/ice-breaker
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.
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.
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.
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.
Jake Muzzin and the Kings face the Ducks on Wednesday for the first time since the playoffs last spring.
The Kings and Ducks renew their mutual dislike for each other Wednesday at the Honda Center, which actually means fans of the teams renew their mutual dislike for each other. Some of the players, gasp, are actually friends off the ice. Others are teammates on Canadian or United States Olympic teams. As rivals, the Kings and Ducks are more like cousins who bicker occasionally during get-togethers at the holidays. At least that was the opinion of Kings coach Darryl Sutter, who said Tuesday: “What was in the dictionary for rivalry 15 years ago is not rivalry now.”
Kings forward Justin Williams won’t play Thursday night against the New York Islanders at Staples Center after suffering an eye injury in the closing moments of Tuesday’s victory over the Dallas Stars. The stick of Dallas’ Brendan Dillon clipped Williams, who left the ice immediately to seek treatment.
“Get better every day and when he’s ready to play, he’s ready to play,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after the team’s morning skate Thursday in El Segundo.
Jordan Nolan skated in Williams’ spot on a line with Marian Gaborik and Anze Kopitar during the Kings’ morning skate. Sutter also reunited That 70s Line after splitting up Tanner Pearson, Jeff Carter and Tyler Toffoli in Dallas.
Well, probably not a repeat of this, when the Red Wings shot the puck off the protective netting and then off Jonathan Quick and into the goal?
Kings rookie Tanner Pearson skates away after scoring in last Sunday’s game. Photo by David Crane/Los Angeles Daily News
Kings at Penguins, Thursday, 4 p.m., Fox Sports West, AM-790
This figures to be a clash in styles, with the defensive-minded Kings making their only visit of the regular season to Pittsburgh to face Sidney Crosby and the offensive-oriented Penguins. The Kings (6-1-2) have given up an average of only 1.67 goals per game, tied with the Chicago Blackhawks for the NHL’s stingiest defense. The Penguins (5-2-1) have scored an average of 4.12 goals per game, tops in the 30-team league.
The Kings’ six-game winning streak ended with a 3-2 overtime loss Tuesday to the Philadelphia Flyers. The Kings have at least one point in eight of nine games this season. The Penguins are coming off an 8-3 victory Tuesday over the New Jersey Devils. Crosby, the NHL’s reigning MVP, leads the Penguins with 14 points, including seven goals. Rookie left wing Tanner Person has a team-leading seven goals for the Kings.