KINGS AT LIGHTNING
Faceoff: 2 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM
The Kings (21-18-12) lost their third in a row to start their five game trip and remained mired in 12th place in the Western Conference after a 3-2 defeat Thursday to the Florida Panthers. They also were five points out of the final wild-card spot. The Kings are 5-12-6 away from Staples Center, tied with the lowly Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers for the fewest road victories in the 30-team NHL. The Kings’ chances of making the playoffs were down to only 12.5 percent, according to the website sportsclubstats.com. Kings forward Jeff Carter has a defensive rating of plus-14 in home games, seventh-best in the league. Carter’s defensive rating of minus-12 on the road is 798th, however. Carter has scored 12 of his 14 goals and recorded 17 of 22 his assists at home. Defenseman Drew Doughty is the Kings’ leading scorer on the road with 14 points, including four goals. Tampa Bay is first in the Eastern Conference with a 33-15-5 record. Steve Stamkos leads the Lightning with 28 goals, tied for third overall in the NHL with two others.
KINGS AT PANTHERS
Faceoff: 4:30 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM
Two games, two losses, one goal. The Kings’ five-game trip started with a whimper instead of a bang and the reigning Stanley Cup champions awoke Wednesday to find themselves in 12th place in the Western Conference and out of the playoff picture. Their 5-11-6 road record, which includes a 1-6-2 mark since Dec. 11, is partly to blame for a lackluster 21-17-12 overall record. The Kings are 15-16-11 since starting the season 6-1-1. Goalie Jonathan Quick, the MVP of the playoffs during the Kings’ first run to the Stanley Cup in 2012, is 17-14-10 with a 2.51 goals-against average and a .910 save percentage. Kings captain Dustin Brown called for more emotion from his teammates after a 4-0 loss Tuesday to the Capitals in Washington, which followed a 3-1 defeat Saturday to the Bruins in Boston. Florida is 22-17-10. The Panthers on Thursday recalled defenseman Steven Kampfer from San Antonio of the AHL.
KINGS AT CAPITALS
Faceoff: 4 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM
The Kings’ 5-10-6 road record is the NHL’s third-worst by victories and fourth-worst by points. Only the Buffalo Sabres and Edmonton Oilers had fewer road wins than the Kings with four apiece at the start of business Monday, and only the Sabres (nine), Oilers (15) and Carolina Hurricanes (15) had fewer points than the Kings’ 16. The Kings (21-16-12 overall) were ninth in the Western Conference, three points behind the Calgary Flames for the final wild-card spot. The Flames could have extended the gap to five points with a victory Monday over the Winnipeg Jets. The Kings began a five-game trip with a loss Saturday to the Boston Bruins. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 38 points, including 27 assists. Marian Gaborik has a team-leading 15 goals. Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin leads the league with 31 goals. The Capitals are 25-15-10.
KINGS AT BRUINS
Faceoff: 4 p.m. TV/Radio: FSW, 790-AM
The Kings begin a five-game trip in Boston on Sunday, hit the White House for a celebration of their Stanley Cup championship Monday and then finish with stops to play the Washington Capitals, Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay Lightning and Columbus Blue Jackets. The Kings must improve on their 5-9-6 road record if they hope to move back among the top eight teams in the Western Conference that will qualify for the playoffs. The Kings (21-15-12) were one point behind the Calgary Flames (26-20-3) for the final wild-card berth at the start of business Friday. Anze Kopitar leads the Kings with 38 points, including 27 assists, and Jeff Carter has 36 points, including 22 assists. Carter had two goals and one assist in the Kings’ victory Wednesday over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Bruins are 26-16-7 after a victory Thursday over the New York Islanders.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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