Pregame reading: Los Angeles Kings at Boston Bruins

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.

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L.A. Kings forward Jeff Carter talks about teammate and friend Mike Richards

Here’s some of what Kings forward Jeff Carter had to say about teammate and friend Mike Richards clearing waivers and being assigned to Manchester of the AHL on Tuesday: “It’s tough, obviously. We’ve got a pretty close team here. Any time anybody leaves it’s always tough. We understand those things happen.

“He brought a lot to this room and a lot of stuff, unless you’re in this room, you don’t see. It was tough on him, too. It’s an opportunity for others to step up. It’s an opportunity for some of the young guys to become leaders. …

“I saw him last night. … I think he’s all right. Nobody wants to get sent down. It’s a (lousy) part of the game. I think he’s handled it well. He’s been around a long time. He knows how it works. I’m sure he’ll work hard and we’ll see him here again soon.”

 

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Dustin Brown says L.A. Kings happy to take ‘step in the right direction’

The Kings' effort and energy, as evidenced by Kyle Clifford's scoring chance, were improved in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

The Kings’ effort and energy, as evidenced by Kyle Clifford’s scoring chance, were improved in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Ducks. (Photo by Hans Gutknecht/Los Angeles Daily News)

 

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.”

 

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One more thing about the L.A. Kings shootout loss to the Ducks

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.

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One more thing about the L.A. Kings’ loss to the New York Rangers

Speed kills. The New York Rangers proved it Thursday during a 4-3 victory over the Kings at Staples Center in a rematch of the Stanley Cup Final. The Rangers skated around the flat-footed Kings again and again, especially during a three-goal second period. Here’s more on the subject from Kings coach Darryl Sutter:

“We had trouble keeping up with a fast team. There’s two ways of neutralizing speed: be fast yourself or slow them down. Even on the (Jeff) Carter line, we couldn’t handle it.

“You can’t take penalties. You need to be able to skate with them. You need to have the speed in your lineup to do it. You have to be able to check and some top players tonight were not in the checking mood.

“You can’t give up four goals and expect to win. Ever.”

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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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Three things about the L.A. Kings victory over the Florida Panthers

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.’”

 

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Three things about the L.A. Kings lackluster loss to the Dallas Stars

Here are the top few paragraphs from my game story:

How low can you go? For the Kings, a letdown Thursday against the Dallas Stars in the cavernous confines of Staples Center was probably inevitable after Wednesday’s 65-minute test of skills and wills against the Ducks at the raucous Honda Center.

The answer, at least at the start of the Kings’ 2-0 loss to the Stars, was subterranean. The Kings played a game so dull and devoid of efficiency and execution that it could have put a pot of coffee to sleep. It appeared the Kings left their skates in Orange County.

“It simply wasn’t good enough,” Kings right wing Justin Williams said. “We chased the game tonight. We were a step behind, a second slow. All that stuff. When you’re a second slow, they’re able to break out of the zone. We had no sustained pressure.”

Here are three things about the Kings’ second straight defeat:

First, Williams was right on all counts. The Kings weren’t good enough. Blame it on the weather, with the rain putting a damper on the evening. Blame it on the Ducks, who extended the Kings the night before. Blame it on the Kings’ injuries and a suspension to defenseman Slava Voynov. Blame it on the Stars, too. The Kings haven’t played very well to start the season. It’s that simple.

Second, the Kings are a sub-.500 team at the moment. They are 8-5-4, which looks good only until you realize they are actually 8-9. That’s not a good sign as they head toward the 20-game mark, which is usually when we find out what teams are truly made of. Big trades can happen and players can suddenly find an extra gear later in the season. But, for the most part, we know what kind of team you’re going to be after roughly 20 games of the season. This means you, Kings.

Third, Kings coach Darryl Sutter benched budding young stars Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli for most of the final two periods of Wednesday’s loss to the Ducks. They played a more familiar role in Thursday’s loss to the Stars, but neither was especially effective. That’s another cause for concern for the Kings, who relied so heavily on them and Jeff Carter for offense to start the season. Where are the goals going to come from if That 70s Line doesn’t score? Well, that’s the big question.

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