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Kings aim to sustain run in clash with Oilers

Jan 7, 2023; Las Vegas, Nevada, USA; Los Angeles Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley (29) redirects a Vegas Golden Knights shot during the second period at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports

Regular-season victories are all worth the same in the standings, but some are worth more mentally than others.

As the Los Angeles Kings prepare to host the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, it follows Saturday’s impressive 5-1 victory over the Western Conference-leading Vegas Golden Knights.

“They’re a good team and it’s a game in our division, so those are big games for us,” Kings goaltender Pheonix Copley said. “We’ve been playing really well defensively and cleaning up stuff, keeping things to the outside and we did that again. It’s huge for us.”

The Kings are on an 8-2-1 run and finished a difficult three-game stretch. Prior to beating Vegas, Los Angeles defeated the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars and lost to the league-leading Boston Bruins. Two wins in three games against those powers is no small feat.

“We played well in all of them,” coach Todd McLellan said. “Unfortunately, the Boston game got away on us a little bit, but it didn’t diminish the effort. We made a few mistakes and they capitalized. (Against Vegas) we were on the other side of that.”

Helping the cause is not only the play of Copley — the goalie who started this season third on the depth chart is now No. 1 and won 10 of his 12 starts — but also a much improved offensive attack.

Kevin Fiala collected his first hat trick of the season against Vegas and is settling in on a line with Gabe Vilardi and Blake Lizotte.

“It’s a good sign,” McLellan said of the team’s chemistry starting to gel. “Kevin was snakebit for a while and he’s off that now. Hopefully things will start going in for him a little more regularly.”

The Oilers are kicking off a four-game road trip through California before ending in Las Vegas. They are coming off Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Colorado Avalanche, the first meeting since the Avalanche swept Edmonton in last season’s Western Conference Finals.

Even though they blew a 2-0 lead in that clash and posted a 1-2-1 record in a four-game homestand, the Oilers see the result as a positive, at least publicly.

“In the long run, it’s an important point for us,” Edmonton coach Jay Woodcroft said. “I thought our team did some good things out there. Obviously, we’d like to have closed them out, but they’re the Stanley Cup champs. They pushed back.”

Looking at the glass as being half empty from the Oilers’ perspective, they relinquished a multi-goal lead in the third period for a third time this season, and it required an outstanding 43-save performance from goalie Stuart Skinner just to earn that point.

However, the Oilers also had plenty of chances to win, including a pair of shots that hit the goalpost before Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar ended the game with a highlight-reel tally.

“It’s a game of inches. I had a lot of chances,” said forward Zach Hyman, who scored twice but struck iron in overtime. “It would have been nice to bear down on one of them and get the win there, but they are a good team. They have a bunch of dynamic players over there, too, that hold on to the puck and make plays like we do.”

With his goals, Hyman joins Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl with 20 or more already this season. The last time Edmonton had three players reach the 20-goal mark in the first 41 games of the season was the 1988-89 campaign.

–Field Level Media