Monday, January 23, 2012
Kings: And then there was one (goal)
By Dan Arritt
Kings (23-16-10, 56 points) vs. Ottawa Senators (27-17-6, 60 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.
Five storylines to track:
1. Slipping back -- Two goals was once the cutoff line to measure whether it was a good day or bad day for the Kings. Take for instance, the 16 consecutive games earlier this winter they failed to score more than two goals in regulation. Well, those are looking like the glory days compared to what the offense is putting up lately. They’ve managed just five goals in the last four games and one or less in seven of the last 12. The Kings need to turn it around in a hurry, or the tension level on the team might turn fixable fissures into deep cracks.
2. Don’t look now -- The continued lack of scoring and Dustin Penner’s breakfast preferences aren't the only hockey stories in Southern California. Down the freeway, the Ducks have caught fire like no other team in the NHL, winning five in a row and eight of nine. After a 1-0 victory Jan. 5 against Phoenix, the Kings were 21 points ahead of Anaheim. Heading into this week, they’re 13 points up. Of course, Kings’ fans could care less about the Ducks, but they remain a prime example of how quickly professional sports teams can turn things around, no matter how dire the circumstances.
3. No-hitter -- One of the surest signs that the Kings got outplayed Saturday night in a 3-1 loss against the visiting Avalanche was the hit totals. The Kings lead the league in hits and Colorado is 10th, but the Avs won that battle, 32-28. The two biggest hitters on the team, Dustin Brown and Matt Greene, had two each. That certainly didn’t go unnoticed by coach Darryl Sutter, who said after the game that the Avs "physically got us." Since hitting an opponent is a lot easier than shooting a puck past a goalkeeper, expect the Kings to deliver a better effort in that area. Ottawa won't be pushed around, however. The Senators are ranked ninth in the league in hits.
4. Fourth line fading -- The checking line of Colin Fraser, Kyle Clifford and Trent Hunter were getting regular pats on the back earlier this month, and their efforts were rewarded with increased ice time, most noticeably late in games. But Fraser played just 6:08 against the Avs, his lowest ice-time total of the season. Hunter earned his fewest minutes this month and Clifford played less than eight minutes for the third straight game after playing more than nine the first seven games in January. There’s no better way for a coach to signal his displeasure than with decreased ice time.
5. Senator stats -- The Senators have not lost two straight games in regulation in more than two months. They ran into the red-hot Ducks on Saturday afternoon and lost, 2-1. Further stoking their motivation to get back to the winning ways is the reminder that the Senators have not won in L.A. since January 2000, owning 1-10-1 record here in franchise history. The Kings should be happy to see Craig Anderson in goal. He’ll be making his 13th consecutive start and owns a 1-5-3 career record against the Kings, with a 3.61 goals-against average.