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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L.A. Kings coach Darryl Sutter’s funny quote of the day (part 2)

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.”

 

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

Jake Muzzin and the Kings face the Ducks on Wednesday for the first time since the playoffs last spring.

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.”

 

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Kings coach Darryl Sutter talks about the play of team captain Dustin Brown

Kings captain Dustin Brown scored only his second goal and recorded just his second point in 13 games to start the season when he tallied during Tuesday’s victory over the Dallas Stars. The Kings expect more from him, although coach Darryl Sutter said Thursday he seen some improvement in Brown’s game recently.

“I think the last two or three games we’ve seen a little bit more of Dustin Brown,” Sutter said after the Kings’ morning skate Thursday in El Segundo. “Not because he’s scored, but more of that forceful game that we need out of him. The question gets asked often about Brownie, but Brownie has had success by playing a very certain way. That’s the way he has to play. When he gets away from playing that straight-line game, then he struggles. When he’s on that straight-line game and being a forecheck guy and a penalty-killer for us, then he’s really effective.”

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L.A. Kings forward Justin Williams won’t play against the Islanders

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.

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