EL SEGUNDO, CA — Having to face the defending Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins while riding a three-game losing streak and a goal scoring drought of the same duration is not a position any team wants to be in, but that’s exactly what the struggling Los Angeles Kings have in store for them when they host the Penguins tonight at Staples Center (7:30 PM PDT).
Having been shutout in their last three games is the most obvious problem the Kings are facing.
“We’ve just got to bear down,” said left wing Tanner Pearson. “We’re creating good chances. It’s a matter of bearing down and finishing off those second chances.”
“[We have] to get more guys to the net and get more shots to the net,” added Pearson. “Something’s going to go in.”
Indeed, getting more pucks and bodies to the front of the net is critical.
“I think it’s evident,” said head coach Darryl Sutter. “We have to be a lot firmer going to the goalie in those areas. I think we do a pretty good job of putting pucks there. We don’t have a lot of natural finishers on our team, so you’re going to get a lot of second and third opportunities—screens, tips. That sort of thing.”
“Offensively, we’ve got to get pucks to the net,” said defenseman Drew Doughty. “Our power play has to be better. We need to get more bodies in front of their goalie and we have to be hungry and score some dirty goals. You hear it all the time. Those pretty plays don’t work in the NHL. Defenders are too smart and too good these days, so in order to score goals, you’ve got to get pucks at the net, drive there and be hungry to pick up the garbage.”
“We can be better on the rush when we have the puck and on our forecheck—creating turnovers—get to the net and score goals that way,” added Doughty.
But play in the offensive zone might just be, at least in part, a by-product of issues with their defensive play.
“We’re just not playing [well] enough,” Doughty emphasized. “Everyone’s paying attention to our scoring—we haven’t scored a goal in three games. But at the same time, we haven’t played great defensively, and good defense creates offense. If we can get back to doing those sorts of things, goals should start coming.”
Doughty also indicated that the Kings have to stay out of the penalty box and be better on the penalty-kill.
“Both [power play] goals [against Anaheim on November 1] were pretty simple coverages that we blew,” Doughty lamented. “Those were easy plays that should never happen. Our penalty-kill should’ve been 100 percent last game.”
“Our penalty-kill is doing some good things,” Doughty added. “But we’ve been giving up [at least] one goal a game, and we can’t be doing that. We want to be 100 percent in order for our team to be good.”
Going into tonight’s game, the Kings are hoping that adding right wing Teddy Purcell to the lineup will give them a spark.
“Hopefully, [Purcell will add] that element of [added] scoring opportunities,” said Sutter. “I think he has the ability to do that and be creative on pucks in the offensive zone.”
Scoring first tonight could provide the boost the Kings need.
“Scoring the first goal always gives you a little momentum,” added Sutter. “Dealing with adversity in games is always really important. You don’t always have the lead and you don’t always get things your way. But I’m not really focused on that. We’re playing the defending champions. We’re focused on trying to play our game.”
Despite being mired in a long, team-wide goal-scoring drought, at least in hockey, past isn’t necessarily prologue.
“When game day comes around, you kind of forget about the last game,” said Doughty. “You remember the things you didn’t do well and need to fix, but you’re really just focused on that game. What happened in the past is in the past. You’re just trying to get back to doing things the way the L.A. Kings do, and win a hockey game that way.”
“It’s a good match-up for us,” added Doughty. “What better way to turn things around than by having a good game and hopefully, a big win against the defending Stanley Cup Champs?”
“They have the Stanley Cup right now. That’s what we work every year to try to win. We want that thing back in L.A. as soon as possible, so tonight’s a big match-up and we’ll be ready to go.”
Stick tap to LA Kings Insider Jon Rosen for his contributions to this story..
LEAD PHOTO: Los Angeles Kings defenseman Drew Doughty, shown here during practice at the Toyota Sports Center in El Segundo, California. Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography.
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