LOS ANGELES—Two defensemen for the Kings, separated by one locker inside the dressing room at Staples Center, but miles apart in their observations following a 2-0 loss Thursday night against the Phoenix Coyotes at Staples Center.
Despite their 10th defeat in the last 12 games, Willie Mitchell thought the Kings took a step forward, out-shooting the Coyotes, 35-16, and performing as if their playoff hopes hinged on a victory.
“We played with some desperation out there,” Mitchell said. “We ran into a goaltender who played really well. ... If we continue to play like that, like we did in St. Louis with that desperation, we’re going to get rewarded.”
Jack Johnson thought otherwise. The Kings lost another game and let one more opportunity to climb up the Western Conference standings slip through their hands.
“Sooner or later, it’s going to get hard to climb teams in the standings,” he said. “We’ve scored two goals in three games. You’re not going to win any hockey games with that.”
From his view on the back end, Johnson said the offense needs to generate more speed through the neutral zone, put the defense on its heels and make plays off the rush.
“Too many times we’re just standing still, chipping pucks in and there’s no speed generated from that,” he said.
Johnson said the team has the personnel to play that type of style.
“Everyone in here is a National Hockey Leaguer, everyone should be able to skate well enough,” he said.
Kings coach Terry Murray has been persistent in sticking with his dump-and-chase philosophy, a blue-collar offensive strategy that starts with the puck getting sent deep into the offensive zone and kept in possesion through stiff forechecks and puck cycling until a scoring chance arises. It appears that opposing defenses have come up with ways to counter the Kings’ style.
“If something’s not working, we have to find a way to find something that does work,” Johnson said.
The Kings are running out of time. They play two more home games before embarking on a 10-game road trip next month. If points are hard to come by now, they will get even tougher on the road.
“You go through stretches like this in a season and you have to find ways to get out of them,” said forward Anze Kopitar, who has one goal in his last 13 games. “We found a way to get out of one earlier and we’re going to find a way to get out of this one.”
That’s if the offseason doesn’t arrive first.