Los Angeles Hockey: Mike Babcock

Kings: Time to establish an identity vs. Red Wings

March, 13, 2012
3/13/12
6:49
AM PT
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: Hoping to hang another loss on Detroit

March, 9, 2011
3/09/11
11:21
AM PT
Kings (36-25-5, 77 points) vs. Detroit Red Wings (39-19-8, 86) at Joe Louis Arena, 4:30 p.m. ET

Five storylines to track:

1. Somebody has to win: When these teams met last week, the Kings were thoroughly handled in a 7-4 loss at Staples Center, allowing seven consecutive goals in a 7-4 loss. The Red Wings have since matched their longest losing streak of the season by dropping their last three games. The Kings bounced back to defeat Phoenix, 1-0, but have since lost two in a row. They haven’t lost three in a row since Jan. 17-20.

2. Shot slippage: The Kings have gone backwards in their "shot mentality." In the last three games, they have totaled 23 shots on goal or fewer, including a total of 15 shots on goal in the last three first periods. Before those games, the Kings had 42 shots on net in a 4-3 win against Colorado and 39 in the 7-4 loss to Detroit. As coach Terry Murray likes to say, you can’t win if you don’t shoot.

3. Score one for Clifford: Kings rookie forward Kyle Clifford scored the prettiest goal of his career in a 4-3 overtime loss Monday against Dallas, hitting the top right corner after taking a long pass from Trevor Lewis near the blue line and skating in on goalie Kari Lehtonen. Clifford was also the main instigator in a scrum that led to Steve Ott spearing Clifford with the blade of his stick, earning a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.

4. Jack has gone backwards: Since defenseman Jack Johnson inked a seven-year $30.5 million extension Jan. 9, he has scored just one goal, against lowly Edmonton. More disconcerting is he’s minus-5 in the last four games and doesn’t have a point in the last five. Johnson is a key player on the power-play unit and when he’s not clicking, neither are the Kings. In the last two games, they are 0 for 10 with the man advantage.

5. Wings seeing red: Detroit has had three days to ponder their collapse against the Coyotes, a game in which they blew a three-goal third-period lead and lost in a shootout, 5-4. Detroit coach Mike Babcock called out his club after the loss, questioning whether it was truly a championship-caliber team. Expect those words to hit home with the veteran Red Wings, who aren’t far from falling into rebuilding mode if they don’t win the Stanley Cup this season.

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