LOS ANGELES — Although the Los Angeles Kings began their annual Grammy Awards road trip on February 2 (Staples Center is being prepared for Sunday’s Grammy Awards), a 7-4 loss at Anaheim, they did not actually leave Southern California until Monday morning headed, for their first stop in Columbus, Ohio, where they will skate against the Columbus Blue Jackets tonight (4:00 PM PST, Fox Sports West).
After tonight, the Kings will then play at Nashville, Detroit and St. Louis before a three-day hiatus in the schedule (February 12 – 14), before they host Columbus on February 15.
But then the Kings head right back out of town for a three-game road swing through Chicago, Edmonton and Calgary.
Indeed, February will be a challenging month for the Kings, and to make matters worse, they are just 2-3-2 on the season, with just one regulation win.
Coming apart at the seams, especially in their own end, at Anaheim on February 2 doesn’t exactly have the Kings heading into a long road trip with momentum or confidence.
“We didn’t take care of business,” said veteran defenseman Rob Scuderi following the loss at Anaheim. “We’re usually a good defensive hockey team, but if you’re not prepared to play the game, which we obviously weren’t tonight, mistakes lead to goals, and that’s what happened.”
Indeed, the Kings played very poorly—uncharacteristically so—in their defensive zone.
“We’ve got to go back to work on focus on [our defensive zone play],” defenseman Alec Martinez stressed after the loss to the Ducks. “We’re not happy with our play. Give Anaheim credit. They played a good game, but we’ve got to have a better effort.”
“The first three goals are things that we, as defensemen, have to clean up,” Scuderi noted. “Absolutely no excuses. The others were power play goals. That’s something that, as a unit, we’ve been pretty good. But there’s obvious some kinks we need to work [out]. There was some confusion out there tonight, and that can’t happen on a good team.”
“At times, you have to give credit where credit’s due,” Scuderi added. “They had the one goal, where they moved it around nicely. It was a one-time shot. Besides that, I think it was correctable problems, myself included.”
The Ducks’ power play absolutely shredded the usually solid Kings penalty-kill, converting three times on just four opportunities with the man advantage.
“Our penalty-kill has to be a lot better, and our team game has to be a lot better,” center Jarret Stoll said after the loss at Anaheim. “I made a couple of mistakes on the penalty-kill, and it cost us a goal.”
“We’ve got to bear down on the penalty-kill, and not create momentum going the other way,” said Martinez. “We didn’t do that tonight, so we’ve got to work on it, focus on it, and come back [strong] against Columbus.”
“You’ve got to play a full sixty minutes, and you’ve got to play at both ends of the rink,” added Martinez. “We didn’t do that tonight. Our power play did well, but we’ve got to pick it up on the penalty-kill. Special teams are really important, especially in today’s game, and we didn’t [get the job done on] that.”
“Everybody’s got to play on the right side of the puck to win in this league,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “If you play on the wrong side of the puck, there’s a good chance you’re going to lose.”
For the first time this season, the Kings missed having veteran defensemen Matt Greene (herniated disc, back surgery) and Willie Mitchell (knee) in the lineup.
As usual, the players were not using that as an excuse.
“Other guys step up, and have done a great job,” Stoll emphasized. “It’s collectively, as a four-man group—a five-man group, including the goaltender for doing a job, trusting reads, and trusting who’s going, who’s not going, clearing pucks.”
“Collectively, we’ve got to better,” Stoll added. “Everybody. It doesn’t matter who’s out of the lineup. Every team has injuries, and we’re no different.”
With a tough February schedule ahead of them, the Kings have little time to lose to right the ship.
“We have a big road trip coming up, and every point is important,” said right wing Justin Williams. “We have to do a better job, and be more desperate to get them.”
“It has to do with mental preparation for the game, getting yourself ready to play the same way as you would in the middle of the game,” added Williams. “Getting yourself mentally focused, getting yourself into the game early, and it’s up to each individual to do that.”
For now, the Kings must turn their focus solely on their next opponent.
“[In a] 48-game schedule, every game is key,” said winger and team captain Dustin Brown. “We’ve got to keep pace, and we’re going into some tough buildings to play [in]. It starts with Columbus. They’re playing pretty good hockey.”
“We’ve got to focus on Columbus right now,” added Brown. “One game at a time. We can’t be thinking about Detroit, St. Louis, or whomever else we play. We’ve got to focus on Columbus, and go from there.”
Brown also issued a challenge of sorts for his teammates, including himself.
“I think we should use this game as a wake-up call,” he said after the loss at Anaheim. “We got our asses kicked. We’ve got to use that as motivation to be better.”
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