Kings Open East Coast Journey with a View of the Devils – Redlands Daily Facts

Entangled in a three-loss rut, the Kings embarked on a six-game East Coast road trip that would take them to what would have been the Olympic hiatus before the NHL and NHLPA pulled out of participation in the games.

They start with back-to-back games against the New Jersey Devils on Sunday and New York Rangers on Monday. The Kings defeated New Jersey in overtime on November 5, then crept up on the Rangers in a 3-1 win on January 10.

On Saturday, the Kings came in third in the Pacific Division, where five points separated four teams in positions two through six and three through seven. After this six-game journey—which will also take them to Long Island, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Detroit—the Kings won’t be back until February 15. They have only been three postponed games to make up for during the so-called Olympic break.

So is this oriental swing pivotal, critical, or some other dramatic adjective?

“The next game is the most important; that’s all we’re looking at,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “[Scheduling] does not matter. We’re going to play 41 games at home, we’re going to play 41 games on the road and we have to play them all.”

McLellan later said the team was “going nowhere” if performance on special teams didn’t improve. The Kings’ power play converts at the 24th best speed out of 32 NHL teams. Their penalty kill equals the lowly Arizona Coyotes at 29th in terms of percentage, ahead of just the Winnipeg Jets and Vancouver Canucks, neither of whom would qualify for the playoffs if the season ended today. It has conceded five goals in the last 11 shorthand situations and four in the last seven.

“I think a big part of special teams, and you can’t see it anywhere on paper, is confidence,” said team captain Anze Kopitar. “Sometimes, on the PK, when you give up a few goals, you’re obviously not that confident, not that aggressive. You don’t do the things you normally would with a little more ease and a little more patience.”

During the trip, fans can expect to see leading goalscorer and all-star roster Adrian Kempe rejoin the team, although it’s unclear exactly how soon he will leave COVID protocols. Injured winger Andreas Athanasiou, who last played on December 14 and has appeared in just 11 games this season, is on the mend. Both players should be considered doubtful for Sunday’s game.

Another potential game-changer for the Kings came in the form of center Quinton Byfield. He saw 5:15 power play time of 15 minutes of action in the season debut, a 4-1 loss to the Colorado Avalanche.

Byfield, the #2 overall roster in the 2020 draft and one of the top five rosters in Kings franchise history, said he felt more comfortable on the ice than during his six-foot cup of coffee. matches last season.

This year, the 19-year-old fans were excited in the preseason before sustaining a broken ankle, recovering for nearly three months, returning to the minor leagues, spending a while in the COVID protocols, and finally returning to the NHL level on Thursday. .

“Absolutely a lot of ups and downs this year,” Byfield said. “Being injured in the preseason was definitely a setback. It was of course not a nice feeling not to play hockey for two and a half, three months. So I was very excited to come back. The COVD setback was also definitely a downer, but I still have a long career ahead of me; there is definitely a setback that you have to go through.”

Against New Jersey and the Rangers, there will be no shortage of other promising candidates on the ice. The Devils can boast of two former No. 1 squads, centers Nico Hischier and Jack Hughes, who have both developed into cornerstone players with long-term contracts. A points per game producer, Hughes quickly realized his potential despite some setbacks early in his career.

Ironically, New Jersey’s leading scorer, forward Jesper Bratt, was a sixth-round pick. But the Devils in last place have backup along the way: Alexander Holtz, seventh overall pick for 2020, has been dominant at the American Hockey League level, and Hughes’ brother Luke has delivered a stellar freshman campaign for the University of Michigan.

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