The Kings and Ducks will meet in this season’s first Freeway Faceoff on Tuesday, with both clubs seeking the momentum that has largely eluded them thus far.
For the Kings’ part, they won consecutive games for the first time in over a month, stunning the Bruins in Boston and holding court against the San Jose Sharks with a pair of shootout victories. They hadn’t prevailed in two straight matches since a season-high, four-game win streak that ended Nov. 12. That was one of just two instances in which they’ve won three or more consecutive games this season, as they’ll look to do Tuesday. The Kings have avoided prolonged skids, having gone winless over three straight games just once this year, but they also haven’t been able to gather much steam.
“We talked about lessons and if we can string some games together,” said Coach Todd McLellan, adding that he could live with goals that teams earned against the Kings but not with “gifting” sterling opportunities to opponents. “We’re just in the middle of the test right now. I don’t think we can grade the paper one bit.”
On the Ducks’ side, they won consecutive games for just the second time in 2022-23. They are now pushing for their first three-game surge. Before road wins in Edmonton and Montreal, they had been outscored 16-1 in their three previous games, all of which were losses. That was their fifth winless streak of three matches or more, including two of six or more. Those slumps have chewed up 22 of the 32 games they’ve played, with just nine wins to soften the blows.
Now, they hope to continue the progress made in their triumphs north of the border.
“We got rewarded last game and you build confidence from that,” said defenseman John Klingberg, who scored three goals and both game-winners against the Canadiens and Oilers.
Though they sit at nearly opposite ends of the Pacific Division standings with the Kings in second place and the Ducks dead last, a common thread can be found in the boosts both have received from goaltenders who started the campaign in the minors.
Lukas Dostal, 22, earned both Ducks victories in Canada, including a 46-save performance against Edmonton’s two-headed monster of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl.
Pheonix Copley, 30, has come out on top in four of his five starts since his Kings debut on Dec. 6. He had only seen consistent duty as an NHL backup in one other season, 2018-19, with the Washington Capitals.
“He’s fit in very well, which isn’t a surprise. He has experience and carries himself well. Guys enjoy being around him and want him to be part of the group,” McLellan said. “When he’s in the net, he looks confident and calm, which can calm things down for all of us. … Right now, he’s running hot and we’ll likely keep going there.”
Another uniting factor is decidedly less welcome to both teams. The Ducks have had the weakest penalty kill in the NHL statistically and the Kings’ PK has been the fifth worst. The Ducks have allowed three power-play goals in their two wins, but early kills allowed them to build a 3-1 lead in Edmonton and a 2-0 edge in Montreal.
While former Kings coach Darryl Sutter admitted that his game plan often insulated backups like Ben Scrivens and Petr Budaj over the years, McLellan said his Kings had stuck to business as usual defensively with Copley between the pipes. In Copley’s last three victories, the Kings have killed 10 of 12 penalties, and gotten timely kills that included two in overtime.
“We want to play tighter and stay out of the penalty box and give up fewer goals, but he plays a big part in that, as a goaltender, and he’s been doing that,” McLellan said.
DUCKS AT KINGS
When: Tuesday, 7: 30 p.m.
Where: Crypto.com Arena
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/IHeartRadio (English)/Tu Liga 1330 AM (Spanish)