Los Angeles Hockey: Phil Kessel

Kings: Time for action in Toronto

December, 19, 2011
Kings (14-14-4, 32 points) vs. Toronto Maple Leafs (16-13-3, 35 points) at Air Canada Centre, 4 p.m. (PT)

Five storylines to track:

1. Less talk, more action – Frustrations boiled over following an 8-2 loss Saturday night in Detroit and a few players voiced their displeasure. It was probably about three weeks too late but much needed nonetheless. The Kings were beat up in every facet of the game against the Red Wings, magnifying the problems they’ve experienced during their current 4-8-1 stretch. If the Kings are going to pull out of their latest funk, it will start with the players, not the voice behind the bench.

2. Swan song – This will likely be the last game for interim coach John Stevens. Darryl Sutter is expected to be formally introduced as the next coach Tuesday, with his first game Thursday against the visiting Ducks. If the players can’t muster up the desire to play well for themselves, maybe they can do it for Stevens, who was a well-liked assistant the last two seasons under previous head coach Terry Murray.

3. Unlikely leaders – Things have gotten so out of whack lately, left wing Dustin Penner and defenseman Davis Drewiske might be the hottest players on the Kings. Penner had one point in his first 12 games and was largely considered the biggest underachiever on the team, but now has six points in his last nine games, including his first multi-point game as a member of the Kings with two assists against Detroit. Drewiske, a healthy scratch in 26 of the first 30 games, has goals in the last two games.

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Kings: Late goal by Handzus ties it, 2-2

January, 10, 2011
After the 2nd period:

Kings 2, Toronto Maple Leafs 2

The good: Huge goal by Michal Handzus with just over five minutes remaining in the period to tie the score. Ryan Smyth passed the puck across the ice to Alec Martinez, who took a shot from near the boards and the puck glanced off the skate of Handzus and trickled past the goal line. Handzus has a goal and two assists in three games since he was bumped from the third line to the second. Another point for Martinez, who lost a goal from Saturday’s win against Columbus when the NHL ruled earlier Monday that his slap shot had been deflected into the net by Marco Sturm.

The bad: The Kings were forced to play from behind for much of the period after the Maple Leafs scored two goals in a 34-second span to take a 2-1 lead. Colby Armstrong set up the first when he slid a behind-the-back pass to Darryl Boyce as both skated into the Kings’ defensive zone. Kings defenseman Matt Greene followed Armstrong, leaving Boyce one-on-one with Martinez. Boyce, a 26-year-old rookie, didn’t bother trying to skate around Martinez, he just shot the puck through the fellow rookie’s legs and over the left shoulder of goalie Jonathan Quick for his second NHL goal in his seventh career game. Toronto then won a face-off in its offensive zone. Joey Crabb carried the puck behind the Los Angeles net and passed across the front of the goal to Phil Kessel, who scored on a tough angle for his team-high 18th goal of the season. The Kings were out-shot, 12-7, in the period.

The in between: Since we're one game past the midway point of the season, it’s a good time to start scoreboard watching. Phoenix and Colorado are just inside the top eight in the Western Conference standings, and both won by a goal tonight, so the Kings have dropped to ninth. They need a win to keep pace, as just three points separate fourth through 11th place. The Maple Leafs don’t have a power play yet, so the referees might be looking for anything borderline to call on the Kings.