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Sports Kings Exceeding All Expectations in Competitive Pacific Division

03:02  16 january  2022
03:02  16 january  2022 Source:   thehockeynews.com

Top 5 NHLers Avoiding the Dreaded Sophomore Slump in 2021-22

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Prior to the current NHL regular season, some hockey analysts – yours truly included – were big proponents of the Los Angeles Kings’ fortunes this year. But really, they've played better than most expected.

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports © Provided by The Hockey News Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

Prior to the current NHL regular season, some hockey analysts – yours truly included – were big proponents of the Los Angeles Kings’ fortunes this year.

It took a little while for them to grow as a group, but under the coaching of Todd McLellan and the GM-ing of Rob Blake, the Kings are just about the hottest team in the Pacific Division: they’ve got a 19-13-5 record, have won three straight and are 7-3-0 in their past 10 games; only the Vancouver Canucks, with a 7-2-1 mark, are better, but Vancouver also has lost two straight).

Huerter's late charge lifts Hawks over Kings 108-102

  Huerter's late charge lifts Hawks over Kings 108-102 SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) — Kevin Huerter scored five of his 25 points in the final 38 seconds and the short-handed Atlanta Hawks held off the Sacramento Kings 108-102 on Wednesday night. Huerter added 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season, helping the Hawks to their third win in nine games. Clint Capella added 11 points and 14 rebounds, and six of Atlanta’s eight players scored in double figures. Cam Reddish had 18 points. HawksHuerter added 11 rebounds for his first double-double of the season, helping the Hawks to their third win in nine games. Clint Capella added 11 points and 14 rebounds, and six of Atlanta’s eight players scored in double figures. Cam Reddish had 18 points.

L.A.’s standings surge hasn’t guaranteed them anything; the fifth-place Calgary Flames are only three points behind the Kings for third place in the Pacific, and Calgary has three games in hand on the Kings. Meanwhile, the fourth-place San Jose Sharks are two points behind L.A., but the Kings have a game in hand on them. And the sixth-place Edmonton Oilers are five points behind Los Angeles, and the Oilers have three games in hand on the Kings. You can see how a bad week or two could waylay anybody’s Stanley Cup playoff aspirations.

But at the moment, the Kings have their sights set on leapfrogging Anaheim, and given that L.A. is two points behind the Ducks, and that the Kings have three games in hand on Anaheim, it’s entirely possible that Los Angeles could claim the second spot in the Pacific. Catching the first-place Vegas Golden Knights (five points ahead of the Kings, with L.A. having two games in hand on them) will be difficult.

Petersen sharp in return to net, Kings blank Red Wings 4-0

  Petersen sharp in return to net, Kings blank Red Wings 4-0 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Cal Petersen stopped all 21 shots he faced in his first start in more than a month, Phillip Danault and Drew Doughty scored in the first period, and the Los Angeles Kings rolled to a 4-0 win over the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday night. “I guess, typical coach, you want our team to play that way throughout the whole night, and we fell off a little bit after that — but a tremendous start. On our toes, getting to a lot of loose pucks, winning faceoffs, playing the way we wanted to play,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. Adrian Kempe scored short-handed, Trevor Moore added an empty-net goal and Los Angeles won for the third time in four games.

But the whole point is that, in L.A., a major market for all media, the Kings are playing important games again. The playoffs are a real possibility for this team. They might even secure home ice advantage for the first round. Big things are coming.

Naturally, there is still a long way for the Kings to grow into a true Cup frontrunner. Of any team currently in a playoff position, Los Angeles has the fewest road wins, with a 6-5-3 mark away from home. They’ve got the NHL’s sixth-best defense, averaging 2.57 goals-against per game, but the Kings’ offense is not nearly as much of a threat thus far, with them having the 12th-worst goals-for average per game (2.81). Yes, there are stars still around from their Cup-winning glory days – captain Anze Kopitar (22 assists and 33 points in 37 GP), defenseman Drew Doughty (15 assists and 19 points in 18 GP), and star goalie Jonathan Quick (11-8-4, 2.38 goals-against average, .921 save percentage) all have made valuable contributions. But it’s the assimilation of newer players to the organization that has helped the Kings turn the corner on being a rebuilding team and heightening expectations for itself.

Kings use three-goal flurry in third to bury Penguins 6-2

  Kings use three-goal flurry in third to bury Penguins 6-2 LOS ANGELES (AP) — Mikey Anderson, Viktor Arvidsson and Anze Kopitar scored in a span of 1:23 of the third period and the Los Angeles Kings won their third straight, 6-2 over the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday night. Dustin Brown had a goal and an assist to reach 700 career points, Sean Durzi had a goal and two assists, and the Kings went 5-2-0 on their seven-game homestand. Jonathan Quick made 27 saves. Kris Letang and Radim Zohorna scored for the Penguins, who have lost two of three following a 10-game winning streak. Tristan Jarry allowed six goals on 45 shots.

Off-season acquisitions Philip Danault (12 assists and 19 points in 35 games in a defensive role at center), Viktor Arvidsson (12 assists and 21 points in 30 GP on the wing) and Alex Edler (10 assists and 11 points in 26 GP) have chipped in something of value, and they’ve made the Kings an all-around better group. It’s true they must generate more offense if they’re to wrest away a division title from the Pacific’s other teams. However, Blake is expected (per CapFriendly.com) to have nearly $8-million in salary cap space, and don’t be shocked to see him use it.

When hockey executive Marc Bergevin was fired by the Montreal Canadiens in late November, he would’ve had multiple job offers waiting for him, but he chose to join the Kings as a senior adviser. He knows a team-on-the-rise when he sees one. L.A. has gone 9-3-1 in their past 13 GP, and they’ve got tough tests ahead, particularly when playing the defending Cup-champion Tampa Bay Lightning and the mighty Colorado Avalanche in two games over three nights on Jan. 18th and 20th. They may stumble, but they may also learn lessons about what it takes to be truly elite in hockey’s top league.

The Kings were a sexy pick before this year for a reason: if you talked to scouts and management/coaching people, many of them were talking about L.A. as a team to keep an eye on. They know the upper ceilings for teams over the years, and they know when on team’s ceiling is being raised. That’s what’s happening in Los Angeles.

The bar is higher, and the Kings look ready to clear it.

Fox lifts Rangers over Kings 3-2 in shootout .
NEW YORK (AP) — Adam Fox admitted he doesn't spend any time in practice working on his shootout attempts. The first try of his career was good enough to give the New York Rangers a big victory. Fox scored the deciding goal in the sixth round of a shootout and the Rangers beat the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on Monday night for their ninth win in 12 games. “Haven’t been in a shootout since maybe my junior days,” the 23-year-old All-Star defenseman said. “I don’t expect to go too often so I work on other things.” Chris Kreider got his NHL-leading 30th goal, Barclay Goodrow also scored and Artemi Panarin had two assists as New York won its fifth straight at home.

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