A six-game winning streak put the Los Angeles Kings into the thick of things in the West Division standings.
Dropping consecutive games to the Minnesota Wild – the second a 4-3 overtime affair on Saturday – has them heading into Wednesday’s home clash with the Arizona Coyotes looking to get back on track.
Despite being amid a rebuild, the Kings find themselves one point out of a playoff spot, and a big focus for the coaching staff will be to remind players how they can’t lose focus.
Case in point, the Kings required a three-goal comeback to force overtime in their second clash with the Wild. One on hand, earning a point with a strong push is something to be proud of, but the slow start is of concern.
“We were disappointed we got into that hole again, but the team stuck with it and clawed their way back in, right to the last second,” coach Todd McLellan said. “It’s a good sign for our group. It’s not a good sign that we’re falling behind right now. We’ve got some things ahead of us that we have to work on.”
The Kings took both meetings with the Coyotes in mid-February. The clubs are separated by one point, although Los Angeles has one game in hand. Earning the single point against the Wild will provide some motivation when the Kings play their first home game in two weeks.
“We had good enough chances to win the game,” forward Adrian Kempe said. “Obviously it still sucks that we lost, and I think we took over in the second and the third period and they had some bounces going their way. I think it sucks for us, but to get one point is all right.”
The Coyotes also enter this clash on a two-game skid, having dropped a pair of home games to the Colorado Avalanche on the weekend, the second a 6-2 final on Saturday. Arizona finished its season-long nine-game homestand with a 3-4-2 record, a mixed-results stretch, coach Rick Tocchet said.
“It’s been a little bit of everything. That’s really what it is — some good and some bad,” Tocchet said.
“I don’t think we played our best hockey,” center Clayton Keller said. “We had some comeback wins, which were great for our team. There were a couple games we let slip away. So going on the road to L.A. for a game, maybe it’s a good thing for us.”
The Coyotes won’t have goaltender Darcy Kuemper for the clash, and the status of top points producer Conor Garland is uncertain.
Regardless, the Coyotes can’t let those injuries derail their season.
“We’ve got to come together as a team, get together as a group. That’s how we’re going to get (back to winning),” captain Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “I feel like we have been playing some good hockey the last three-four games, but we haven’t been playing up to our standards. So we need to fix that.”
A couple of days practicing will help the Coyotes with a reset.
“Our team always plays better when we practice. I think I’m one of those guys that loves to practice,” Keller said. “You want to come to the rink every day with the mindset of getting better.
“Whatever it is, I think our team, whenever we practice, we tend to play better. It’s on to the next game now, and we’ve got to stay positive because it’s a long season. Flush these two games down and look forward to the next one.”
–Field Level Media