Los Angeles Hockey: Jakub Kindl

Kings: Time to establish an identity vs. Red Wings

March, 13, 2012
Kings (32-25 -12, 76 points) vs. Detroit Red Wings (44-22-3, 91 points) at Staples Center, 7:30 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. Mystery men – Sitting courtside at the Clippers game Monday night was Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, two of the best players on the Kings. As they were shown on the multiple big screens that hover over the floor, there was, well, really no response. Almost as if they were unrecognizable. That would’ve never happened in Philadelphia, where both played for six seasons before they were traded to the Kings in the last nine months. One thing’s for certain, the Kings have supplanted the Clippers as the most unrecognizable pro sports team in L.A. Only a deep playoff run could possibly reverse that. At this point, the bigger challenge is just making the postseason for a third straight year.

2. Playoff picture – At least the Kings can cross the Ducks off the list of competition for one of the final Western Conference playoffs bids. Anaheim lost its third straight game Monday night in Colorado, leaving the team nine points back of the eighth-place Avs. Unless the Stars and Blackhawks accidentally pull their emergency chutes down the stretch, they can probably coast to the finish line, leaving five teams drag racing for the final two playoff berths. As it stands now, the Coyotes, Avs, Sharks, Flames and Kings are bunched within three points and have anywhere from 11 to 14 games remaining. To say this is a must-win is almost laughable. At this point forward, every game will fall into that category.

3. Defensive wizards – While the defensive pair of Rob Scuderi and Drew Doughty can’t seem to finish a shift without the puck hitting their net, rookie Slava Voynov and his veteran partner, Willie Mitchell, continue to pick up the slack. Voynov has made the trade for Carter last month look better and better each game, more than competently replacing Jack Johnson. In the eight games since the trade, Voynov has contributed a goal and three assists, all while building up a plus-6 rating. Mitchell’s numbers have been even better since he swapped partners, owning a goal and four assists with a plus-9 rating. He was a plus-2 in the previous 55 games, mostly playing alongside Johnson.

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Kings: Late lead coughed up in loss to Red Wings

March, 9, 2012
Detroit Red Wings 4, Kings 3

Eight keys to the game:

THE FACTS: Holding a one-goal lead with just over four minutes remaining against an injury-depleted team who was struggling just to gets shots on net, the Kings gave away the victory Friday night and a chance to move into the top eight in the Western Conference standings at Joe Louis Arena in Detroit.

THE STAT: The Kings lost in regulation for the first time in 87 games when leading after the second period.

TURNING POINT: The Kings had taken their third lead of the game, 3-2, on a goal by rookie forward Dwight King with 5:54 remaining in the game, but they gave that one away too, as Valterri Filppula scored just under two minutes later. The Red Wings then took their first lead with 1:13 left when Johan Franzen passed to Darren Helm in front of the net and he scored Detroit’s fourth goal of the game on just their 15th shot on goal.

HOT: Never mind that Kings right wing Dustin Brown extended his points streak to seven games, or the Kings did not allow a shot on goal on three Detroit power plays to extend their streak of penalty kills to 25, if this loss doesn’t bring out the fire in Kings coach Darryl Sutter, nothing will. The Kings looked as if they were finally putting together a playoff push after winning their third straight high-scoring game Tuesday in Nashville, but then lost to the league’s worst team Thursday night in Columbus and now blew this late lead with so much on the line.

NOT: Let’s start with the defense pair of Rob Scuderi and Drew Doughty. Scuderi, an eight-year veteran with a Stanley Cup championship on his resume, was on the ice for all four goals by the Red Wings, tying his career high with a minus-4 rating. The last time he turned in a similar dud was December 2007. Doughty, who held out all of training camp while his agent insisted he become the highest-paid player on the Kings, matched his career high with a minus-3 rating. He let Helm get inside position on the game-winning goal, and had a bad turnover on a power play earlier in the third period that Detroit nearly turned into a short-handed goal. If the uninspired play of the Kings this season doesn’t get general manager Dean Lombardi fired, his decision to give a one-year wonder defenseman all that money surely will.

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