As a result of the Kings’ injuries, defenseman Drew Doughty’s ice time has grown to an average of 28 minutes, 37 seconds per game, the second-highest in the league behind the 29:08 played per contest by Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. Doughty averaged 25:42 last season, seventh overall.
“He’s been playing a lot of minutes,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after Thursday’s 2-0 loss to the Dallas Stars. “Do we like that? No, but that’s where we’re at. I look at that all the time, too. It’s too many minutes. He’s going to tell you he’s fine, but over the long haul, that’s too many.”
There were, oh, about 1.5 million things that got overlooked during the Kings’ 6-5 shootout loss to the Ducks on Wednesday. One was the scant playing time given to young forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, two-thirds of That 70s Line, the Kings’ leading offensive trio. Pearson played only eight minutes Wednesday against the Ducks, and Toffoli was on the ice for only 10:43. Jeff Carter, who centers the line, played his customary minutes, skating 21:33. More minutes than usual, in fact. Toffoli has scored a Kings-leading 17 points, including seven goals, while averaging 14:16 of ice time per game. Carter has 15 points, including six goals, and averages 18:11. Pearson has 10 points, including seven goals, and averages 12:56.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter had this to say about free agent defenseman Jamie McBain, who signed a one-season, $550,000 contract with the club Tuesday: “There’s a lot to go over with him. It’s way different coming to this conference. The pace of play is way different. He hasn’t played on a good team. Big difference. Good kid. Good skill set. The next part is the game.”
Jake Muzzin sat out of the Kings’ season-opening loss to the San Jose Sharks because of an unspecified injury. Muzzin, one-half of the Kings’ top defense pair along, was hurt earlier in the week. His status for
Sunday’s Saturday’s game against the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz., remains uncertain.
Brayden McNabb took Muzzin’s place in the lineup and played a regular shift alongside Drew Doughty. McNabb’s plus-minus rating was minus-1. He played 23 minutes, 27 seconds. Doughty was a minus-1 in a team-leading 27:28.
Marian Gaborik made quite a statement when he chased down a routine dump-in from Kings teammate Justin Williams in Thursday’s game against the Washington Capitals. His hustle negated an icing call and he out-foxed Capitals defenseman John Carlson. Gaborik wasn’t content, however. He then whipped a pass to a hard-charging Anze Kopitar, who beat goalie Jaroslav Halak with a quick shot.
It was a tidy summary on the reasons the Kings acquired Gaborik from the Columbus Blue Jackets on March 5 for ineffective forward Matt Frattin, a second-round pick either this year or next plus a conditional third-round selection. They needed a more dynamic offensive presence and GM Dean Lombardi had targeted Gaborik for quite some time. He liked his speed, his skill and his knack for making plays, all of which the Kings seemed to lack in great numbers.
So, how has the trade worked for the Kings? Gaborik has two goals and two assists, including one power-play goal and one power-play assist, in seven games in which the Kings have gone 4-3-0. His plus/minus defensive rating is minus-1. He has 23 shots on goal and has played an average of 18 minutes, 2 seconds. Above all, he’s proved to be another offensive weapon for a team with an anemic offense. It will be interesting to see if he continues to click with Kopitar, and why wouldn’t he?
Here’s the first part of a group question-and-answer session with Kings goaltending coach Bill Ranford:
Question: How much of it is Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones and how much is it the defense?
Ranford: “I think it’s a combination of both. You need your goalie to make the big saves at the right time and you have to play solid defense. I think this group here, going back to the Terry Murray takes, has taken a lot of pride in their defense. That hasn’t changed.”
Drew Doughty and Jake Muzzin seem like a defense pairing built to last, a union of two offensive threats. Or is it?
“Evaluate it every game,” coach Darryl Sutter said Friday, the day before the Kings played host to the New York Islanders at Staples Center. “Quite honest, when we went into Anaheim the other day, the last time Jake played in Anaheim, he was (poor), so don’t think I didn’t talk to him about it. Because you’re evaluated at the end of every game. Because at the end of the day … we’re not that far from Jake Muzzin being a healthy scratch. Not that far removed. He’s a young guy and we’re looking for consistency.”
At first glance, it seems Kings left wing Dustin Brown is playing his usual game. He leads the team with 94 hits in 25 games. He has 69 shots on goal and has played an average of 17 minutes, 25 seconds per game.
He simply isn’t producing goals and assists as he might in a normal season, however. Brown goes into Wednesday game against the Sharks in San Jose with nine points (four goals, five assists). That projects to only 30 points in 82 games, which would be his fewest since he had 28 points in 79 games in 2005-06. He had 29 points in 46 games during the lockout-shortened 48-game season in 2012-13. His career-best is 60 points in 78 games in 2007-08.
What’s troubling for the Kings is that Brown’s streak of 50 points or more in five consecutive full seasons is in serious jeopardy unless something changes dramatically the rest of the way.
Coach Darryl Sutter ranked Trevor Lewis as the Kings’ second-best penalty-killer after Anze Kopitar. It almost goes without saying that goaltender Jonathan Quick is actually the Kings’ best penalty-killer, what with his customary array of quality saves whenever the team is shorthanded.
“We have good penalty-killing because of our goaltending,” Sutter said.
Avoiding penalties is always the first step, though.
“You have to learn how to do that,” Sutter said of playing a hard-nosed but legal game. “It wasn’t a very disciplined team at one point, and if you look at teams that aren’t very disciplined the last few years, they have a hard time making the playoffs.”
The Kings hit the road Thursday for a four-game trip that starts Friday in Raleigh, N.C., lugging some serious baggage after four games to start the season. Here’s the third of three things to watch during an eight-night trek to play the Carolina Hurricanes, the Florida Panthers, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Nashville Predators:
No team has won the Stanley Cup in October, but plenty of them have lost a chance to play for it with lackluster starts to the season. It’s only been four games, including two at Staples Center, but there are already some disturbing defensive numbers for the defensive-minded Kings. Take a look at some of their individual plus-minus defensive ratings. Matt Frattin and Jake Muzzin are each minus-5. Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll are each minus-3. No one on the roster is a plus. That’s a poor sign for the Kings, who pride themselves on suffocating the life out of opponents. Look for it to improve soon. If not, then coach expect Darryl Sutter to continue to tinker with his lineup and especially his line combinations.