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.”
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 will be well-represented at the Jan. 25 All-Star Game in Columbus, Ohio. Joining coach Darryl Sutter and his staff will be defenseman Drew Doughty, center Anze Kopitar and winger Tanner Pearson.
Doughty made the team for the first time in his seven-year career, a mind-boggling fact given his remarkable play the last few seasons. But there was no game last season because of the Sochi Olympics and it was not played in 2012-13 because of the lockout.
Kopitar was selected despite some subpar statistics in the first half of the season. He was the Kings’ leader with 29 goals and 70 points last season, but had only eight goals and 30 points in the first 41 games of 2014-15.
Pearson was selected as one of six rookies to make the teams. He had 12 goals, tied with Marian Gaborik and Tyler Toffoli for the team lead, plus four assists going into the Kings’ game Saturday against the Winnipeg Jets.
Anze Kopitar had nine points, including eight assists, during a three-game scoring spree in which he led the Kings to victories in two of three games last week. The NHL apparently stayed up late to watch and on Monday named Kopitar its first start of the week. Kopitar had a career-high five points, including four assists, in the Kings’ 6-4 come-from-behind victory Thursday over the St. Louis Blues. He also had three assists in their win Saturday over the Arizona Coyotes.
Jakub Voracek of the Philadelphia Flyers was named the NHL’s second star and Marc-Andre Fluery of the Pittsburgh Penguins was the third star.
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.
The Kings fell to 3-5-4 away from Staples Center after a 1-0 loss Tuesday to the Buffalo Sabres, the first game on a five-game trip. Last season, Drew Doughty, Jonathan Quick, Anze Kopitar and the rest of the Kings were the kings of the road during the playoffs. They won Game 7s in San Jose, Anaheim and Chicago en route to their second Stanley Cup championship in three years.
Winning two Stanley Cups in three seasons has its rewards. Well, that plus owning and operating a lucrative arena in downtown Los Angeles has Forbes.com ranking the Kings as the eighth-most valuable team in the NHL.The Kings’ estimated value of $580 million ranked well behind the Toronto Maple Leafs ($1.3 billion), the New York Rangers ($1.1 billion) and the Montreal Canadiens ($1 billion), the first time three NHL teams have been valued at more than $1 billion.
The Kings were just behind the Philadelphia Flyers ($625 million) and just ahead of the Detroit Red Wings ($570 million). The San Jose Sharks ($425 million) and the Ducks ($365 million) ranked 14th and 18th, giving California three teams in the top 20. The Florida Panthers were 30th and last with a value of $190 million.
The Kings’ overall value grew by 29 percent from 2013, according to Forbes.
Here’s the link to the Forbes.com story: http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikeozanian/2014/11/25/the-most-valuable-teams-in-the-nhl/
Here are the top paragraphs of Tuesday’s game story:
The Kings welcomed former teammate Willie Mitchell back to Staples Center on Tuesday night. They gave him his Stanley Cup championship ring and saluted his short but memorable tenure with the team in a video tribute that played on the giant overhanging scoreboard.
They also gave him a reminder of how they used to seize games and make them theirs, taking a 5-2 victory from his new team, the Florida Panthers. The Kings scored four times in the pivotal second period, including two while on the power play.
Matt Greene, Jeff Carter, Marian Gaborik and Robyn Regehr scored for the Kings, putting them firmly in command entering the third period. Each of the Kings’ six defensemen – Green, Regehr, Drew Doughty, Jamie McBain, Brayden McNabb, Jake Muzzin – had a point in the middle period.
Here are three things that stood out about the game:
First, the Kings power play roared to life with two goals in Saturday’s victory over the Ducks and it didn’t slow in the least Tuesday against the Panthers. That’s a good sign for a team that often struggles to score. Period. They got three power-play goals, a season high, in six chances against Florida. Let’s see if they can keep it going Thursday against the Carolina Hurricanes. A strong power play can make a good team great and a great team, well, it makes winning Stanley Cups easier.
Second, Greene and Regehr scored goals. Wait, what? “At first I didn’t think it was ‘Greener,’” Kings center Anze Kopitar said, smiling, when asked about Greene’s first goal since Oct. 19, 2013. “I didn’t know he had that in his repertoire.” Regehr’s goal was his first since Feb. 26. So, that happened, which was a bonus for the Kings.
Third, Mitchell’s return had a surreal quality to it. He signed a two-season, $8.5-million contract with the Panthers during the offseason, but he said Tuesday that the reality of his departure really hit him during the warmup before his Staples Center return. He acknowledged that it was not a comfortable feeling. “Just actually skating out for warmups the first time and you see the signs around,” Mitchell said. “It’s, like, ‘This is real. I’m not playing here anymore.’”
Here are the first few paragraphs of Saturday night’s recap:
Marian Gaborik scored his long-awaited, much-anticipated first goal of the season a little less than 10 minutes into the Kings’ 5-1 victory Saturday over the Vancouver Canucks. Then Jake Muzzin scored his first about five minutes later. Then Anze Kopitar scored his third about four minutes later.
In the end, the lifeless Canucks were a cure for what ailed the shorthanded Kings.
Robyn Regehr couldn’t play because of an injury suffered in Friday’s practice. Slava Voynov was banned for the ninth consecutive game, serving an indefinite suspension imposed by the NHL after his arrest on domestic violence charges last month in Redondo Beach.
Since salary-cap issues made it impossible for the Kings to seek replacements for Regehr and Voynov from their American Hockey League team in Manchester, N.H., they were forced to dress only five defensemen for Saturday’s Pacific Division showdown with the Canucks.
Here are three additional things that stood out:
First, Gaborik’s goal was the first hint of his presence this season. Is that too harsh? Well, he was the Kings’ leading goal-scorer with 14 during their charge to the Stanley Cup championship last spring. He was the key piece to their postseason offensive surge, too. He has been injured for all but seven of their 15 games after signing a mammoth seven-year, $34-million contract to stay in Los Angeles. All things to consider when assessing his lack of production to start this season.
Second, Drew Doughty’s minutes have increased because of the Kings’ lack of healthy and eligible bodies in their defense corps. He played 29:46 Saturday against the Canucks. That’s a ton, especially this early in the season.
Third, the Canucks were surprising pushovers in their first visit to Staples Center this season. They didn’t score only Chris Higgins ended Jonathan Quick’s shutout bid with a goal at 12:07 of the final period. The Kings built a five-goal lead before Higgins struck on a centering pass from former L.A. forward Linden Vey. In the end, it was a disappointing showing by the surprising Canucks (10-5-0).