Kings look to tighten up habits and build on 4-game winning streak

Kings look to tighten up habits and build on 4-game winning streak

The Kings hit the road with four straight victories at their backs, heading to Minnesota to face the Wild in a battle that pits a divisional contender against a club clinging to a wild-card spot.

Though the Kings have captured four in a row, they’ve let some poor habits slip into their play during three of the four wins, and also haven’t gained ground on first-place Vegas, which has won its past five games.

The Kings let a 5-1 lead slip away Saturday against the Arizona Coyotes, ultimately pulling the game out in a shootout. They had a strong start and a 3-1 edge against the Ducks Friday, but played much of the third period in a one-goal game. In their prior win against Buffalo Monday, they’d also opened the door for the Sabres in the third period of a game the Kings had led comfortably.

“One of the big factors in winning when it all comes down to it is being able to play with a lead. Our team has to improve immensely in that area,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.

The Kings’ players preached consistency across situations and responsibility throughout the lineup.

“It’s within us, it’s not just the leadership group, but each and every guy being a leader in here, and not only saying the right things but doing them on the ice,” defenseman Sean Durzi said.

Thus far, the Kings’ lapses have not stung them in the standings, but they’ve been playing at or near home since the All-Star break, and now face a trip that will send them to the center of the Twin Cities and Winnipeg with a triangular swing through the three New York-area arenas in between. That’ll mean tilts with four teams that presently playoff spots and a fifth that’s in a points tie for a wild-card berth. It also signifies that the Kings won’t play another home game until March 2, the eve of the NHL’s trade deadline.

A plus for the Kings vis-a-vis both their trip and the deadline is that their roster is currently healthy. Depth winger Carl Grundstrom has continued to progress toward a return and everyone else is available to McLellan at the moment.

Though he’s technically back in the fold, the Kings might be longing to see the high-motor, stride-heavy Trevor Moore that was so vital to their playoff push last season. He missed seven weeks with an upper-body injury and was banged up again Saturday. Since his return, he has just one point in five appearances. He had posted only one goal and two assists in the 16 games prior to his injury.

“It’s hard sometimes to come back in the game, plus everyone’s pushing for playoffs, the pace is really fast,” Moore’s linemate Phillip Danault said. “He’s going to get there, I’m not worried about it at all, and, as a line, we’ve got to get back to it.”

The Wild were playoff qualifiers in each of the past two seasons, their ascent coinciding with the arrival from Russia of leading scorer Kirill Kaprizov. They’ve remained a top-10 team in terms of goals allowed but their offense has lulled in the lower quarter of the league for much of the season.

Minnesota dealt winger Kevin Fiala to the Kings last summer, and he’s been his new club’s leading scorer. Meanwhile, the Wild has struggled to replace his production, especially at even strength. They’ve also seen a drop in scoring from their formerly formidable back end: Minnesota’s blue-liners combined for 171 points last season but are on pace for just 144 this year.

In their last 19 games, the Wild owned a points percentage of exactly .500, muddling through nearly a quarter of their season and only reaching that mark thanks to narrow victories in their two most recent matches. They are just two points up on Calgary in the wild-card race and have benefitted from Edmonton’s winning just one of its past six games.


When: Tuesday, 5 p.m.

Where: Xcel Energy Center, Saint Paul, Minn.

TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeart Radio