Kings coach Darryl Sutter doesn’t often play nice with reporters. He doesn’t like their questions, so he doesn’t answer them. Or he talks about something else. Or he gives them lessons on how he thinks they should do their jobs, which was the case Sunday when he didn’t wish to critique the Kings’ season as it reaches the midway point. Here’s some of what he said when asked about what he likes, dislikes and believes can be improved: “You guys criticize, I analyze. Your responsibility should be to pass good things along to the fans, not negative things. I’ll just leave it at that.”
After nine consecutive road games, after visiting four different time zones, after playing on both sides of the border and on both coasts, the Kings finally returned Saturday to the cavernous confines of Staples Center to face the San Jose Sharks.
The Kings hardly looked like the same uncertain team that lost three consecutive games and was 3-4-2 while averaging only two goals per game during their extended absence from Southern California. They grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and made it theirs, winning 3-2.
Kings center Jeff Carter got a step on the Sharks’ retreating defense and scored his team-leading 20th goal of the season to restore a two-goal advantage 3 minutes, 44 seconds after Brent Burns pulled San Jose to within 2-1 with a power-play goal 12 seconds into the third period.
Carter reached the 20-goal milestone for the 12th time in his 13 seasons in the NHL.
San Jose’s Kevin Labanc cut the Kings’ lead to 3-2 at 13:57, but the Sharks’ failed to overcome a poor start to the game. Tanner Pearson, in the first period, and Drew Doughty, on a second-period power play, gave the Kings a 2-0 lead after two periods.
The Kings outshot the Sharks 13-6 in the opening period and by 27-20 by game’s end.
“We played the whole game the way we want to play,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said after tying Jacques Martin for 13th place on the NHL’s all-time list with his 613th career victory. “We hadn’t played here for a long time. It was nice to play in front of our fans again.”
A loss would have dropped the Kings 11 points behind the Pacific Division-leading Sharks, not that anyone expected a tight race between the teams. Instead, the Kings moved within seven as the midpoint of the season nears. The Kings are 18-15-4; the Sharks are 23-13-1.
The matchup in goal Saturday featured two possible Pacific Division teammates when the NHL’s annual 3-on-3 tournament, er, All-Star Game is held at Staples Center on Jan. 29, with Peter Budaj starting for the Kings and Martin Jones in net for the Sharks.
Budaj was playing only because No. 1 goalie Jonathan Quick sat out for the 35th game after suffering a serious groin injury in the first period of the season-opening game Oct. 12 at San Jose. His play was hardly the reason for the Kings’ fifth-place standing going into the game.
In fact, Budaj’s statistics aren’t all that different from those of Jones after the third of five meetings between the Kings and Sharks this season. Budaj is 16-10-3 with a 2.03 goals-against average; Jones is 19-12-1 with a 2.11 goals-against average.
“Guys played great in front of me,” Budaj said. “We didn’t give up much. They’re a very dangerous team. They don’t need much to make it interesting, and they did. It’s a big game for us, a big two points. … It’s a grind, it’s a battle.”
Before the game, Sutter dismissed the notion that the Kings’ lackluster goal-scoring was keeping them from moving up in the standings. As ever, Sutter was more “interested in cutting scoring chances down and giving up easy goals-against.”
“Scoring goes, like, once in a while you don’t and once in a while you do,” Sutter said. “We’ve already done it several times this season. What’s wrong? I can’t score, and then when they do …. Hey, it happens. That’s the way it goes, but easy goals-against have hurt us since Christmas.”
Sutter referred to losses Wednesday to the Vancouver Canucks and Thursday to the Edmonton Oilers, when the Kings weren’t as sharp as they needed to be at either end of the ice. Returning to a cool, rainy Southern California seemed good for what ailed them, however.
Kings general manager Dean Lombardi said Wednesday he now expects injured goaltender Jonathan Quick to be sidelined until at least mid-February, or one month longer than the original three-month layoff projected back in mid-October. Lombardi spoke with traveling beat reporters before the Kings’ practice in Buffalo, N.Y., breaking the news during a rambling answer about the prospects for a trade to bolster the team’s goaltending in the absence of Quick.
The Kings have been without Quick since he injured his groin in the first period of the Kings’ season-opening game Oct. 12 in San Jose.
The Kings’ combined goals-against average is 2.40 and their save percentage is .904. Peter Budaj has started 23 games in Quick’s absence, going 13-7-2 with a 2.66 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.
The Kings are 14-12-2, fifth in the Pacific Division, after opening a seven-game trip with a 6-3 loss Tuesday to the Buffalo Sabres. Jeff Carter, who had two goals Tuesday against Buffalo, said the Kings were a “fragile team.” The Kings’ trip continues Thursday against the Detroit Red Wings, who are 13-13-4, sixth in the Atlantic, after a 4-1 loss Tuesday to the Arizona Coyotes.
The NHL on Monday named Jeff Carter its first star for last week after he had four goals and two assists in four games, including two goals and an assist in the Kings’ 3-2 victory Sunday over the Ducks. He was blanked in the Kings’ loss to the Colorado Avalanche and then began a three-game scoring streak that has coincided with a three-game winning streak. Here’s a link to Sunday’s story about his play in the game against the Ducks: http://www.ocregister.com/articles/carter-736100-kopitar-kings.html
Carolina Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward was the second star.
Washington Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom was the third star.
Here’s Kings coach Darryl Sutter disputing my line of questioning about the team getting “rewarded” for going to the net during a 5-0 victory Saturday over the Calgary Flames: “That’s how you score. How many goals are scored by going to the net? It’s tough to score if you don’t go to the net. It’s not a reward. That’s real. It can’t hit you in the (rear end) and go in the net if you’re not standing close to the net.”
Left wing Andy Andreoff officially joined the list of the Kings’ battered and bruised Thursday. The Kings placed him on injured reserve because of an upper-body injury sustained during their loss Sunday to the Chicago Blackhawks. Left wing Marian Gaborik (broken right foot), defenseman Brayden McNabb (upper body) and goalies Jonathan Quick (groin) and Jeff Zatkoff (groin) were already on injured reserve.
Kings defenseman Tom Gilbert drew a three-game suspension Thursday from the NHL for boarding Ducks left wing Nick Ritchie in the second period of Tuesday’s game at Staples Center. Gilbert must sit out the Kings’ games Thursday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins, Saturday against the Calgary Flames and Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs. He is eligible to play again Thursday against the Montreal Canadiens, the second-game of a five-game trip for the Kings.
Gilbert also must forfeit $23,333.34, based on his annual salary of $1.4 million.
Here’s the link to the NHL’s video explanation: https://www.nhl.com/video/t-277440360/c-45969003.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter didn’t agree the play was worth scrutinizing, let alone worthy of a suspension.
“I totally disagree that there should be any sort of hearing or anything at all,” Sutter said before the suspension was announced Thursday afternoon. “Usually, I’m all in the ‘what the right call’ (category), but I totally disagree. I think there were ones on him that should have been looked at. I totally disagree. That’s just the way I feel. I was shocked and surprised to hear that (the NHL would review the play).”
The Kings recalled Kevin Gravel from their American Hockey League team in Ontario on Thursday in order to bolster their defense corps in advance of their game later in the evening against the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins.
Gravel had two assists in six games this season with the Reign.
Defenseman Brayden McNabb is on injured reserve because of an upper-body injury.
Tom Gilbert had a hearing with the NHL in the wake of his hit to the head of the Ducks’ Nick Ritchie in Tuesday’s game. Gilbert faces a possible suspension.
The Kings recalled defenseman Rob Scuderi from their American Hockey League team in Ontario on Monday in order to fill a spot on the roster after placing defenseman Brayden McNabb on injured reserve Sunday because of an upper-body injury. Scuderi, 37, hasn’t played a game this season with the Kings or the Reign. He was cut by the Kings at the end of training camp and accepted an assignment to the Reign. McNabb was hurt during a third-period collision in the Kings’ 1-0 loss Saturday at St. Louis.