LA Kings Have The Advantage over Vegas Golden Knights in the First Round

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar shown here during a recent practice.
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Photo: Gann Matsuda/

EL SEGUNDO, CA — Just hours from now, the city of Las Vegas will host its first major playoff game, with the Vegas Golden Knights hosting the Los Angeles Kings in their first round Stanley Cup Playoff series.

The Golden Knights have quickly built a solid fan base that has made for a very loud T-Mobile Arena, which will likely be even louder in the post-season.

“[One] thing is just the environment there, in Las Vegas,” said Kings winger Dustin Brown. “They’ve been loud for 41 regular season games. Now they get a taste of the playoffs. There’s probably a lot of excitement in that city. We have to be prepared to go in there and deal with that atmosphere.”

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LA Kings Anze Kopitar Has More Important Things To Worry About Than The Hart Memorial Trophy

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar
Photo: Gann Matsuda/
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EL SEGUNDO, CA — Don’t look now, but with 80 points so far this season, Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar needs just one more point to match his career high in points, set in the 2009-10 season when he scored 34 goals and added 47 assists for 81 points in 82 games.

Through 71 games this season, Kopitar ranks eighth in the National Hockey League in overall scoring, with 29 goals and 51 assists for 80 points, with a +16 plus/minus rating, 16 penalty minutes and a 53.9 percent face-off win percentage.

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LA Kings Look Inward To Try To Halt Three-Game Skid

Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar
Photo: Gann Matsuda/
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EL SEGUNDO, CA — After an 11-2-2 start to the season, the Los Angeles Kings have come crashing to Earth, now mired in a three-game losing streak, with each of those losses coming on home ice.

“Crashing” might seem like an exaggeration, given that the Kings remain on top of the Pacific Division. But when you look at how the Kings lost those three games, the term is probably more accurate than not.

  • November 9: 4-2 loss vs. Tampa Bay Lightning. Poor puck management, turnovers and otherwise sloppy led to four Lightning goals scored in just 2:02 during the first period.
  • November 12: 2-1 loss vs. San Jose Sharks. After a strong start and a 1-0 first period lead, poor puck management by the Kings allowed the Sharks to take over the game in the second and third periods.
  • November 14: 3-2 loss vs. Vancouver Canucks. A mirror image of their loss to San Jose, outside of a 2-0 first period lead.

After the loss to the Canucks, the mood was rather somber in the Kings dressing room, especially given the fact that the season isn’t two months old yet.

“We just stopped playing our game,” said defenseman Alec Martinez. “They didn’t.”

“We all know the way we can play,” said left wing Tanner Pearson. “We’ve done it in spurts, and in some games, we’ve done it the whole game. We’ve just got to do it for 60 minutes.”

But are opposing teams doing anything different on the ice, compared to earlier in the season, to counter what the Kings are trying to do?

“It seems that teams are a little more aware of some of the things, offensively, when we get into zone play,” said head coach John Stevens. “Other than that, both teams really have a script on each other going into a hockey game. It comes down to execution and it comes down to competitive spirit.”

“Every team is a little bit different—their schemes are a little bit different,” added Stevens. “But at the end of the day, I don’t think we’ve surprised anyone, and I don’t think anybody has surprised us. It’s a matter of execution.”

The Kings may not be facing huge changes, in terms of tactics teams are employing against them, but they are certainly seeing more highly motivated opponents.

“Before the season, we were the LA Kings who missed the playoffs two out of three years,” said center and team captain Anze Kopitar. “But then, at one point, we were 8-1-1, so you’re not sneaking up on teams anymore. They’re ready for you.”

“Part of it is that, but at the same time, we brought that upon ourselves with good play, so we’ve just got to make sure that we’re ready, to the best of our ability for each and every game,” added Kopitar. “But that’s the grind we talk about, sustaining that for 82 games. It’s impossible, but you’ve got to do the best you can.”

“You’re expecting their ‘A’ game, their best game, whether that’s playing more defensively or forechecking more, it’s really up to their system, I guess. But what we can control is our input, our readiness, and our emotion, going into the game. That’s going to be the goal, going forward.”

As Stevens noted, the Kings must also regain control over execution of their game plan, and most importantly, address their problems with turnovers, their neutral zone and defensive zone play.

“It’s important to go back and [regain] a clear understand of what the plan is, and you still need guys to make plays with the puck,” he said. “[Against Vancouver], we put pucks into areas that made the forecheck easy for them. But I really think, if you look at it, our neutral zone play and our defensive zone play wasn’t up to the standard we’d like it to be.”

“That really affected our ability to forecheck,” he added. “When you spend too much time in your zone in those situations, when you do get a puck, you end up changing [lines] all the time, shift length gets too long, pace drops off, and momentum goes the other way.”

Kopitar also pointed to defensive zone play and puck support.

“It’s both [mental and execution-related],” he said. “When you go into the defensive zone, you just want to get the puck back. There’s some X’s and O’s, but you want to go in and grind it out. After that, it’s having good support around you, so that you can make plays, and we’ve always been good with that. That’s slipped the last few games. We’ve got to get back to the support and the positioning we’ve had before.”

“Where we’ve gotten in trouble—when we [start] running around a little bit—it’s when we try the long, stretch passes to get us out of trouble,” he added. “[But that] usually brings more trouble. [We need better puck support]—being closer to each other, and get out of the zone like that, or coming up the ice like that, rather than being spread out and having to make the perfect pass to get the play going.”

Stevens also indicated that even before his team’s current three-game skid, not everything was coming up roses, despite the hot start.

“We were very honest when we were winning games that there were some really good things, but there were some things that we needed to do a lot better,” he noted. “It’s no different now. Look at [their loss to the Canucks]. We got the great start that we wanted, but we went off track. We kind of got away from our identity, and we let Vancouver grab the momentum of the hockey game.”

“I think it’s important that we get the guys together, we talk about what happened, we identify those areas, and make sure that it’s a clear, honest message to the group.”

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LA Kings: Toffoli Update; Martinez On The Tough Road Ahead

LA Kings right wing Tyler Toffoli
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Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

EL SEGUNDO, CA — With the 2017 National Hockey League All-Star break behind them, the Los Angeles Kings, with the exception of all-stars Jeff Carter and Drew Doughty, who were given the day off, got back to work at practice on January 30.

Right wing Tyler Toffoli participated in the full practice, without restrictions. Missing was defenseman Matt Greene, who was placed on injured reserve, retroactive to January 20.

Although he said that he is “close” to returning, it appears unlikely that Toffoli will be available for the game at Arizona on January 31. The same goes for the game against Colorado on February 1 at Staples Center.

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LA Kings Are Showing Signs Of Shaken Confidence, Frustration, Tension

LA Kings Defenseman Drew Doughty
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Photo: David Sheehan/CaliShooterOne Photography

LOS ANGELES — After an embarrassing 4-0 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,230 fans at Staples Center on Thursday night, one has to wonder if the team unity and strength of character that the Los Angeles Kings have become so well known for since they won the Stanley Cup in 2012 has begun to fray.

Indeed, the frustration and tension seemed palpable as soon as the game ended.

As soon as the final horn sounded, Kings players skated to goaltender Jeff Zatkoff, as they usually do with whomever is in goal. But Zatkoff, who had been victimized by blatant turnovers and blown coverages by Kings skaters on all four Detroit goals, appeared to want to have nothing to do with that. In fact, he skated straight to the bench—quicker than usual—and into the dressing room, appearing to completely ignore his teammates.

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