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.
4. Going, going Gagne – Add left wing Simon Gagne to the list of struggling Kings. Gagne, the two-time 40-goal scorer who came over from Tampa Bay in the offseason, has gone 13 games without a goal, his longest goal-less streak since going 14 games without lighting the lamp during the 2003-04 season as a member of the Flyers. Gagne’s certainly not alone. Fellow top-line forward Anze Kopitar has been stuck on 10 goals since Nov. 22, a span of 11 games.
5. Points leader – Toronto forward Phil Kessel has dropped off the wicked scoring pace he set in October, when he produced 10 goals and eight assists in 11 games. So far this month, he has three goals and four assists in seven games, but still leads the league with 39 points. The Madison, Wisconsin native has done well in his limited experience against the Kings, totaling six points in four games, the only team in the league he averages more than a point a game against.