LOS ANGELES -- The Kings are running out of time, running out of answers and the patience meter has long run dry.
They lost their second straight home game Saturday night by a score of 1-0, and for the second consecutive game their out-of-town opponent leapfrogged them in the Western Conference standings.
This time it was the Calgary Flames that did the honors, scoring a third-period goal that held up behind 28 saves from goalie Miikka Kiprusoff. The loss lifted the Flames into eighth place and dropped the Kings into ninth. If the season ended today, L.A. wouldn’t make the playoffs after entering the season with enough talent and money spent to make a legitimate run at the Stanley Cup title.
With the trade deadline rapidly approaching and the Kings’ offense going from bad to worse, it’s only a matter of time before one or more members of the team is playing elsewhere.
Kings coach Darryl Sutter appeared as perplexed as ever following the game, and this time he took direct aim at his top line of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown and Justin Williams, who failed to generate any offense for the second consecutive game.
“We’ve stuck with the Kopi and Brownie and Willy line and right now it’s just not working,” he said.
Brown, who has averaged 27 goals the last four seasons, is stuck on 13 with less than a third of the regular season remaining. Brown hasn’t scored since the Kings last played Calgary 30 days ago, a 2-1 shootout loss at Staples Center. Kopitar and Williams have been chipping in points here and there, but haven’t carried the team the way most playoff-bound top lines do.
“It’s definitely frustrating,” Brown said. “I think it’s been frustrating all year for the players in here, the lack of scoring.”
Sutter was asked if now would be a good time to break the combination up. After a long pause, he simply answered, “How do you?”
Sutter, in just two months on the job, didn’t hide the fact he’s running out of options. Jarret Stoll, who is going through his own steep drop-off in production this season, is still nursing a hip injury. Dustin Penner, a healthy scratch the previous three games because of inconsistency, was given a second chance against the Flames but did nothing.
The best line in the last week has been the one that features rookies Jordan Nolan and Dwight King on either side of center Mike Richards.
“We’ve got our work cut out,” Sutter said.
If anyone should be frustrated it’s goalie Jonathan Quick. In the 26 losses he has absorbed this season, the Kings have supported him with 29 goals. A free agent after next season, it would be difficult to blame him if he opted to sign with a team that can take some pressure off his glove and pads.
Sutter said he’s not worried about Quick’s frustration level affecting his play.
“My concern is not the mental part for him at all, he’s probably the strongest guy we have,” Sutter said. “My concern is just the physical part with him.”
In reality, the play of Quick should be the least of anyone’s concerns.