EL SEGUNDO--There was no panic in the Kings’ locker room Friday morning following their second consecutive one-sided loss the night before. No sense of urgency and certainly no finger-pointing.
Maybe because the Kings have been down this road before. Try six weeks ago. They were the talk of the NHL when they started this season a franchise-best 12-3-0, then hopped a plane to San Jose and everything went wrong in a 6-3 loss to the Sharks on Nov. 15. That spelled the beginning of a 1-7 swoon that had some wondering if their blistering start was just a desert mirage.
They righted themselves with a three-game winning streak that was highlighted by an overtime victory against the visiting Red Wings, then embarked on a five-game road trip that included victories in Detroit, Nashville and Colorado by combined score of 16-1. After a 5-0 victory Monday in San Jose, the Kings were looking like one of the elite teams in the NHL again. Then they got trampled Wednesday night in Phoenix, 6-3, and again on Thursday, 7-4, against the visiting Flyers.
In the mind of coach Terry Murray (pictured), he believes his team took its foot off the gas. "That’s when the casualness starts to set in," he said. "All it takes is one or two plays, and it can be very contagious."
The players remained confident they could reverse this latest tailspin and quickly gain control. Once again, the Sharks will be in the midst of all, as they travel to Staples Center for a 6 p.m. game Saturday.
"There’s a lot of hockey left to be played and we’ve only lost two, it’s not the end of the world," said defenseman Jack Johnson.
"If we lose seven in a row, then maybe." Johnson did say there was a commonality in the losses to Phoenix and Philadelphia, and it had nothing to do with effort or fatigue while playing four games in five nights. "They were a little quicker than we were," he said.
"Quick teams, they’re on you quicker and they make you think."
The Chicago Blackhawks, who play the Kings on Monday at Staples Center, are also considered one of the league’s speedier teams. Like the Coyotes, the Kings are 0-2 against Chicago this season.
Drew Doughty, who was paired with Johnson on defense, said the Kings can overcome any type of opponent if they get back to the basics of playmaking.
"The last two games, we’ve been a little tentative to make plays and that’s causing us to be in our [defensive] zone for a little while," he said. "Mentally, we get kind of tired." And that's when the engine stalls.