Los Angeles Hockey: Michael Leighton

Kings: A big audience, but what about crowd?

January, 3, 2011
Chicago Blackhawks (20-17-3) vs. Kings (22-15-1) at Staples Center, 6 p.m.

Five storylines to track:

1. It’s how you finish: For one of the few times this season, the Kings will play in front a nationally televised audience -- the only reason to start a game in the middle of a rainy, Monday rush hour in L.A. Both teams have lost three in a row and are getting desperate for a win, so viewers should at least witness some playoff-caliber efforts, even if it won’t be in front of a playoff-caliber crowd.

2. Correction time: We actually gave the Kings too much credit last weekend when we said they were 0-2 against the Blackhawks this season. They’re 0-3. Chicago, it seems, keeps catching the Kings at the right time. Twice at the end of five-game road trips, and the other the first game back after a four-game road trip. This will be the third in an eight-game homestand, so no excuses this time.

3. Second-line blues: When left wing Ryan Smyth was moved to the second line after two games, it seemed Kings coach Terry Murray had pulled a playing card out of his sleeve. Smyth quickly combined with Justin Williams and center Jarret Stoll to form the Kings’ top scoring line through the first 20 games. But the trio's production has dropped off significantly, especially Stoll, leaving some to wonder if the early success was less magic and more illusion.

4. Golden Arches-gate:Kings standout defenseman Drew Doughty has taken some cyber-slack for his conditioning this season and it didn’t help when he announced to television audiences Saturday that his new year’s resolution was to eat less fast food, then quickly added with a chuckle, “Not going to happen.” It was all in good fun for Doughty, who is one of the more comical players in the locker room, even during losing streaks. Look for him to let his play speak for his conditioning tonight.

5. And a couple of more things: Just how bad were the Kings on Thursday against the Flyers? The goalkeeper who beat them that day, Michael Leighton, was waived Monday. But they played significantly better in a 1-0 loss to San Jose on Saturday. Chicago's second-leading scorer Jonathan Toews, who injured his shoulder last week against St. Louis, says he'll play tonight, so look for him to be quickly tested by the likes of Dustin Brown, Kyle Clifford and/or Matt Greene.

Kings: Smyth scores first but Flyers score last

December, 30, 2010
After the 1st period:

Kings 2, Philadelphia Flyers 2

The good: Always a good sign when the Kings score first. They’re 17-3-0 this season when burying the game’s first goal. Ryan Smyth did the honors this time, giving the Kings a 1-0 lead on a rather bizarre play. He brought the puck out from behind the Philadelphia goal and slid it along the goal line toward goalie Michael Leighton, who was making his first start of the season after undergoing back surgery in October. The puck would have kept on going through the crease if it didn't clip Leighton’s left heel and slide back into the net 2 minutes 39 seconds into the game. Welcome back Michael! The Kings’ second goal might have been even uglier. Justin Williams slid a pass toward Smyth who was crowding the crease and the puck went off Flyers defenseman Matt Carle and was redirected into the net, giving the Kings a 2-1 lead at the 11:03 mark.

The bad: Goalkeeping is looking like a lost art in Los Angeles. A day after Jonathan Quick gave up six goals in 1 periods in a 6-3 loss to Phoenix, the Flyers scored two goals on nine first-period shots against back-up Jonathan Bernier. Granted, both goals came on point-blank shots by scoring phenoms Danny Briere and Mike Richards, but there was no traffic to obstruct his vision. He just got beat. Bernier has also allowed a few long rebounds, which has been his calling card this season and one of the reasons he has a 4-5 record.

The in between: The Kings were getting pinned in their own zone on the forecheck but seemed to find some room to work in the waning minutes. Philadelphia already has 12 hits, compared to eight for the Kings, so it’s obvious the Flyers didn’t come here to play nice.