L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks about struggling forward Jeff Carter

Jeff Carter, far left, is in a slump. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

Jeff Carter, far left, is in a slump. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

 

Kings forward Jeff Carter hasn’t scored a goal since Nov. 18 against the Florida Panthers, a dreary stretch of 13 games in which he also has only three assists. So, when a beat reporter asked Kings coach Darryl Sutter on Wednesday if Carter was getting enough scoring chances, Sutter said, “Not consistently. Not consistently.”

Sutter also said: “He hasn’t scored a goal for a month tomorrow. Nov. 18. I have it all marked down. … We’re trying to get all our top guys to be more productive players right not. It’s not just Jeff Carter.”

In addition, Sutter said one way to eliminate some of the pressure from Carter is having him play on center Anze Kopitar’s wing. “There was a time last year when (Dwight) King, ‘Kopi’ and ‘Carts’ were our best line,” Sutter recalled. “Just trying to manage it game by game … the reason why you shift guys around is because top guys aren’t producing. That’s clearly why, if you look around the league now, why guys get shifted around.”

 

 

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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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So, how did L.A. Kings defenseman Alec Martinez play in his return to the lineup?

Alec Martinez (27) played for the first time after missing seven games after undergoing finger surgery.  (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

Alec Martinez (27) played for the first time after missing seven games after undergoing finger surgery. (Photo by John McCoy Daily News)

 

Well, it depends. Here’s what Alec Martinez said to say after playing for the first time after sitting out for seven games because of finger surgery: “It felt good to be back playing again. It’s not too much fun being out. As for my game, I’m not too happy with it. I had to shake off a little bit of rust. I know I’ve got a better game in me next game. At the end of the day, we got the two points. That’s all I care about.”

Here’s what Kings coach Darryl Sutter said, bringing up Martinez’s name after reporters failed to do so after a 2-0 victory over the Boston Bruins on Tuesday at Staples Center: “Whenever guys come back from injuries, they have a lot of energy, and he and Robyn (Regehr, his defense partner Tuesday) were really good.”

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L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s postgame quote of the night

Kings coach Darryl Sutter had this to say about Montreal Canadiens great Jean Beliveau, who died Tuesday at the age of 83: “I only knew him through business, but as a young boy I watched him. Jean Beliveau was a classy player and I remember him so well, how elegant he was on the ice. He was a great player who won a lot of championships, and he was a great captain.”

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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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Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the Carolina Hurricanes

Here are the top few paragraphs of my game story:

Tanner Pearson chipped the icicles off his hockey stick Thursday at Staples Center. The rookie left wing ended an 11-game goal-scoring drought with a deft swat of the puck that propelled the Kings to a grinding 3-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes.

So great was Pearson’s slump that he went from playing on the Kings’ most effective line, to sitting on the bench and watching for extended stretches, to nearly sitting in the press box and eating popcorn by the fistful as his teammates faced the Hurricanes.

It’s often that way with gifted young players, with their production ebbing and flowing. Kings coach Darryl Sutter hinted that a night in the rafters might not be such a bad thing, although he didn’t mention the 22-year-old Pearson by name.

Sutter didn’t pull the trigger Thursday, but Pearson did. Pearson’s goal gave the Kings a 3-2 lead only minutes into the second period and they held it the rest of the way against the Hurricanes. The Kings’ victory was their third in a row after a two-game losing streak.

Here are three things about the Kings’ latest victory:

First, Pearson’s slumps will be fewer and farer (is that a word?) between as he matures and gains experience. He was doing all the right things of late, but the puck wasn’t going into the net for him. He solved it by charging to the net and smacking a loose puck into it. Smart play by a gifted player who realizes that not all the goals are going to be masterpieces.Gritty goals count just as much as pretty ones.

Second, Kings defenseman Drew Doughty played 25:10 against Carolina, ending his streak of 30-minute games at four in a row. Injuries and the suspension to Slava Voynov have wreaked havoc with Sutter’s defense pairs and Doughty has been overplayed to the extreme at times. Sutter has acknowledged the disservice it’s done to Doughty and to the Kings. But what else can he do? Voynov won’t be back any time soon after the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s Office announced Thursday it would charge Voynov in a domestic violence case. Alec Martinez is expected back within a week or so after undergoing minor surgery on a finger. But the numbers are thin for Sutter, so expect Doughty to keep playing big minutes.

Third, the Kings’ power play, once a hindrance, is now a help. The Kings went 1 for 3 with the man advantage against the Hurricanes, which came one game after they clicked on 3 of 6 chances Tuesday against the Florida Panthers and two games after they were 2 of 3 on Saturday against the Ducks. The Kings went through a 1-for-27 slump over nine games and it appeared their power play was a lost cause. But that’s no longer the case if recent games are an indication. That’s a very big deal for a team that often struggles to score while skating 5 on 5.

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L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s quote of the night

Kings coach Darryl Sutter had this to say after defensive-minded defensemen Matt Greene and Robyn Regehr scored second-period goals in a 5-2 victory over the Florida Panthers: “It’s good to see Robyn and Greene score. They don’t get much credit and they give you the blue collar every night. They are our two most consistent defensemen, for sure. It’s always good to see them score.”

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Kings defenseman Drew Doughty playing big minutes for shorthanded team

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.”

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Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s nutty quote for a Thursday morning

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)

Was he serious? Was he joking? No one knows for sure. Actually, no one is ever sure what’s running around in the mind of Kings coach Darryl Sutter. Anyone who claims to know is a liar. Here’s what he said after the Kings dropped a 6-5 shootout decision Wednesday to the Ducks: “They’re a much better team than we are. They proved it last year, proved it again tonight.”

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