Kings face best in the West Division this week
While the Kings have a significant deficit to make up to reach the playoffs, they also have the easiest schedule among West Division teams, thanks in large part to five of the remaining 16 games coming against the last-place Ducks.
But they’ll face a test of mettle in the short run, confronting the top teams in the West Division for four games. They’ll start that stretch by hosting the Vegas Golden Knights Monday and Wednesday, before traveling to Colorado to meet the Avalanche.
Coach Todd McLellan identified one area of his team’s game he’d like to see improve, and that is their finishing ability around the net. From early in the season, the Kings have frequently committed players to opportunities that did not come to fruition, creating vulnerability to counterattacks that have often ended up in goals allowed.
“We still need some polishing around the net. The amount of opportunities we create, all it does is create faceoffs or transition coming back the other way,” McLellan said. “That’s something that we have to improve on.”
When the Kings have gotten offense, they have won, posting an 11-0-1 record when scoring four goals or more. Their only loss was a 6-5 overtime defeat by the Ducks following a frenetic rally to force OT. Since March 11 they’ve won all four games in which they have racked up four or more goals.
The Kings could use that finishing ability both 5-on-5, where they have not been efficient for most of the season, and on their once formidable power play, where they have been ice cold of late having scored on two power plays since March 21 before Dustin Brown’s goal off the rush that was technically a man-advantage tally. A team that was once scoring about a power-play goal per game now has trouble mustering one a week.
Not since March 10 has the Kings’ power play produced two goals in a game, and they had done so in their previous game on March 8. The second power-play unit has not produced a goal since Feb. 22 when center Gabe Vilardi potted one in St. Louis. The last time both units scored in the same game was Jan. 21 against Colorado.
McLellan, however, has been less concerned about offensive inconsistency, and more focused on the Kings’ defensive structure. He said it improved against San Jose in Saturday’s 4-2 win over a team that had flummoxed the Kings with stretch passes and often outnumbered them on the rush in prior meetings.
The Kings are 13-2-0 when giving up two goals or fewer this season, winning four of the six games where they limited opponents to two or fewer goals in the past month.
On the other bench, Vegas has played .500-ish hockey in its last 10 games. They saw Colorado overtake the division lead by earning 16 out of 20 possible points during a hot stretch of play.
Right winger Mark Stone leads the Golden Knights in points with 42 and left winger Max Pacioretty paces them in goals with 19. The Kings seem likely to see a split of starts between Marc-Andre Fleury, a likely hall of famer with three Stanley Cups and five finals appearances on his resume, and Robin Lehner, who was a finalist for the Vezina Trophy in 2019.
Las Vegas at Kings
When: Monday 7 p.m./Wednesday 7p.m.
Where: Staples Center (no in-person attendance).
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West (Monday) and NBCSN (Wednesday)//iHeartRadio