Here’s what Kings forward Tyler Toffoli said after scoring three times in a 5-3 victory Thursday over the Calgary Flames: “It was pretty exciting and a personal accomplishment, but at this time of the year, it’s huge to get wins. This was our third straight and we’ve got to keep rolling. We’re a pretty tight-knit group here and individual stats don’t really mean a whole lot. We just want to win games.”
Tyler Toffoli skated with his Kings teammates Tuesday for the second consecutive day after getting medical clearance after suffering from mono. He said he would like to play in Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks, but the final decision would be a group one. Toffoli said he would speak to Kings coach Darryl Sutter and the team’s medical staff and then a decision would be made.
“I feel good,” he said. “I did some battle drills today. I was trying to push myself more than I usual would the day before a game. I was trying to just get my legs under me. It’s been a long couple of weeks. The first week or so I didn’t do a whole lot. I did a bunch of bike rides. I wasn’t really allowed to do anything. The whole process went by smoothly. I think we’re all going to talk and see how I’m feeling and they’re going to tell me. … It’s more my legs and getting my legs under me.”
Tyler Toffoli hasn’t played since coming down with mono after the Kings’ loss to the New York Rangers on Jan. 8 at Staples Center. He resumed skating with his teammates Monday and said he hoped to be fit to play in Wednesday’s game against the Chicago Blackhawks at Staples Center.
“We’ll see,” Toffoli said. “It’s the first time I’ve skated with the guys. I was a little tired. We’ll see tomorrow and then Wednesday. I got tested Friday, blood and ultrasound and stuff. It was all good there. I’m not sure if I’ll have any setbacks. Hopefully, I’m feeling good.”.
The headline says it all. What we don’t know at the moment of this typing is what precisely is wrong with backup goaltender Martin Jones, who didn’t participate in the Kings’ morning skate Saturday. Coach Darryl Sutter told reporters Jones was ill, but it’s believed Jones is injured. The Kings avoided making a public announcement by recalling J.F. Berube from Manchester (N.H.) of the American Hockey League and placing forward Tyler Toffoli (mono) on injured reserve. No mention was made of Jones in the team’s press release, which is their choice.
More later. Maybe.
The Kings haven’t been outshot in a game since Nov. 29, when the Chicago Blackhawks did it to them 25-20 during a 4-1 victory at Staples Center. They were tied in shots on net 25-25 during a 5-2 loss Dec. 16 to the St. Louis Blues. But otherwise they have outshot everyone since that game against the Blackhawks. Monday, they outshot the Toronto Maple Leafs 20-19 in a 2-0 victory.
“It still doesn’t add up for us because if you’re just going on analytics we’re right at the top,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said. “We should have more (wins). It doesn’t really add up. We’re going to have to get better at it because with the goals out of our lineup (Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, in particular), and a bit of inexperience at our back end, we still have to find a way to get better.”
Kings coach Darryl Sutter was asked Monday morning how the team would fill the void created by the absence of young wingers Tyler Toffoli (mono) and Tanner Pearson (broken left ankle). He had a simple answer: “You don’t.”
Sutter also said: “They’re very important players on our team, not just numbers guys but a very big part of our puck possession game, our penalty-killing game, all that. You don’t replace those players. What you do is you put other guys in, guys who are either bitching about ice time or guys who you have to move out of position a little big or veterans who just have to give you a little bit more.”
Toffoli was diagnosed with mono Friday and Pearson was hurt Saturday.
The Kings announced winger Tyler Toffoli tested positive for mono and will be lost to the time for an as-yet-to-be-determined length of time. Toffoli hadn’t missed a game this season and recorded 12 goals, tied for the team lead, plus 15 assists. He also had a team-leading plus/minus defensive rating of plus 16. He had an assist in 14 minutes, 44 seconds of ice time in the Kings’ loss Thursday to the New York Rangers. There was no hint of an illness after the game.
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.
For starters, Florida Panthers defenseman Willie Mitchell makes his Los Angeles return Tuesday night to face the Kings, the team he helped win Stanley Cup championships last season and in 2012. Mitchell, who signed a two-season, $8.5-million contract with the Panthers during the offseason is one of a number of players who make the Panthers more formidable than anticipated.
Second, Florida (6-4-5) has victories over the Ducks and San Jose Sharks, a pair of Western Conference elite teams, within the last week. The Panthers thumped the Ducks 6-2 on Sunday. Kings defenseman Alec Martinez is expected to be sidelined for about a week after undergoing finger surgery Friday.
Third, the Kings (9-5-4) ended a two-game losing streak with a 3-2 overtime victory Saturday over the Ducks. Tyler Toffoli leads the Kings with eight goals, and rookie Tanner Pearson has seven. Toffoli also has a team-leading 10 assists.
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.