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Devils out to continue run as Kings visit after brutal loss

Jan 13, 2024; Sunrise, Florida, USA; New Jersey Devils center Nico Hischier (13) protects the puck from Florida Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad (5) during the first period at Amerant Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Both in the mix for a playoff spot, the Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils are out to sharpen their consistency over the remainder of the season.

While the Devils eye a third straight victory, the visiting Kings are trying to rebound from their worst defeat in nearly two years when the teams meet Thursday at Newark, N.J.

Entering play Wednesday, Los Angeles was tied with St. Louis for the top wild-card spot in the Western Conference. However, the Kings followed back-to-back wins, including Saturday’s exhilarating 4-0 home win over surging Edmonton, with an embarrassing 7-0 road defeat against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.

It was the club’s worst defeat since a 7-0 loss to the Boston Bruins on Feb. 28, 2022.

“We’re not going to play like that,” said interim Kings coach Jim Hiller, whose team failed to score even with 33 shots on goal against the Sabres.

“We’ll figure it out. … We’ll get to the bottom of it, and we’ll correct it and get going again.”

Making his fourth straight start, Los Angeles’ David Rittich allowed five goals on 17 shots through the first two periods Tuesday. Cam Talbot entered and yielded two goals on seven shots. Talbot is 0-7-3 with a 3.86 goals-against average over his last 10 starts.

The Devils won 3-1 over the Seattle Kraken on Monday and followed with Tuesday’s comeback 4-2 victory at Nashville to post consecutive victories for the first time since Jan. 3-5. The Devils trailed the Predators 2-1 after two periods then broke out in the third with two goals from Nico Hischier.

New Jersey entered play Wednesday two points behind Detroit for the second and final wild-card position in the East.

“We’re in these games,” said the Devils’ Timo Meier, who also scored in the third period Tuesday.

“We know we can create chances offensively, but we’ve got to be defending the right way. So, we just kind of built that confidence over the last couple of games, where we’ve been defending well, and we got some huge saves from our goalie,” he added. “That’s just how we’ve got to continue.”

Amid reports that linked New Jersey to a veteran goaltender prior to next month’s trade deadline, Nico Daws could get a third straight start after stopping 57 of 60 shots to win the last two contests.

Daws has been given the opportunity with Vitek Vanecek (lower-body injury/illness) momentarily out of action. Akira Schmid was recalled from AHL Utica to be the team’s current backup.

A healthy Jack Hughes has scored in two straight games for New Jersey and registered five assists in five career contests versus Los Angeles. Hischier has recorded five goals with eight assists in the last 11 games.

The Kings’ Quinton Byfield had his five-game point streak (four goals, four assists) snapped on Tuesday. Byfield has not posted a point in three career games against the Devils.

Longtime Los Angeles star Anze Kopitar has 19 points in 25 games versus New Jersey, but he’s managed just a goal and two assists in his last 11 overall games.

–Field Level Media

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