Sunday, November 6, 2011
Kings: Rollercoaster ride veers to San Jose
By Dan Arritt
Kings (6-4-3, 15 points) vs. San Jose Sharks (7-4-1, 15 points) at HP Pavilion, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Colossus II: Last season was marked by extreme inconsistency in the win/loss column. The Kings started a franchise-record 12-3-0, then lost seven of their next eight. They went through another hot-and-cold period in December and into mid-January. The Kings appear to be falling into a similar pattern. They began this season 5-1-1 but have fallen to 1-3-2 in their last six games, losing their fourth straight game Saturday night against visiting Pittsburgh. They're aware of the early similarities to last season, maybe even too much so. A victory against the Sharks would surely ease their minds and get them rolling in the right direction again.
2. Scoreless in L.A.: What do Dustin Penner, Drew Doughty, Alec Martinez, Brad Richardson and Trevor Lewis have in common? Besides their membership with the Kings, they’ve each gone without a goal this season. That’s a combined 56 games without hitting the back of the net. Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell, even Ethan Moreau can be excused for not scoring a goal yet this season, but the five players listed above need to find a way to produce on offense if the Kings have a hope of pulling out of their scoring slump sooner rather than later.
3. Subtle changes: Kings coach Terry Murray adjusted the scoring lines during practice Sunday, moving Penner up to the second line at left wing, dropping Scott Parse back to the third line on the right side and moving Kyle Clifford up to the third line on the left side. All three players have been under the gun at one time or another this season, and Murray indicated after practice Sunday his main objective for the changes was getting Penner more involved offensively. He has not scored a regular-season goal in the last 24 games. Parse, meanwhile, hasn't proved he can consistently produce with less-skilled players on his line, so this could represent a setback for him.
4. The Big Pavelski: San Jose right wing Joe Pavelski was moved from the third line to the top group this season and the transition is working out well. Pavelski has nine goals and five assists in that role, placing him seventh in the NHL in scoring. Pavelski, who tallied a career-high 66 points last season, has also tormented the Kings in his career, producing 12 goals and 23 points in 28 career games.
5. Handzus effect: The Sharks signed Michal Handzus in the offseason to shore up their penalty-kill unit, which finished 24th out of 30 teams in the league last season (79.6 percent). Handzus, who played for the Kings the last four seasons and was a key member of their penalty-kill units, hasn’t helped much, as the Sharks are ranked 29th (72.9). Offensively, Handzus has three points in 12 games for San Jose. The Kings have dropped to 16th in the league in power-play efficiency after sitting in the top 10 earlier this season, so they'll be looking to attack San Jose's soft spot.