The Los Angeles Kings passed one major test this week. An even bigger one arrives on Thursday night when they host the Boston Bruins.
Boston owns the most points in the NHL (62) and will come in hot, having earned at least a point in its past 11 games (8-0-3).
The point streak was extended with a 2-1 win against the Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday in the outdoor Winter Classic at Fenway Park in Boston.
Los Angeles is coming off an impressive win of its own, beating the visiting Dallas Stars 3-2 on Tuesday night, giving the Kings 50 points at the halfway point of the season.
The Stars had won four in a row coming into the game and sat atop the Central Division standings.
The win continues to add to the Kings’ resume of being a legitimate playoff team this season, but coach Todd McLellan is only concerned about earning two points against the Bruins.
“Our goal is to become a 52-point team,” McLellan said. “I know that’s not what you want to hear, but the team coming in here on Thursday, what are they shooting for, their 70th point? That’s the type of challenge that we have.”
And the challenges won’t end there.
After the Kings host the Bruins, they visit the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday and then come home for four games. Among the visitors will be the Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and another from the Stars.
“This string of games right now, every night is a big battle,” McLellan said. “I think if we start thinking about big numbers and chunks, it’s not going to do us any good. One at a time.”
The Kings blanked Dallas in the third period, a notable feat considering the Stars came into the game leading the NHL with 55 goals in the final period and the second-best goal differential (plus-25).
Boston has proven to be tough to put away as well, owning the second-most third-period goals in the league (54) and the best goal-differential (plus-31).
“In the third period, this team finds ways to raise their level and take over a game,” Bruins coach Jim Montgomery said.
Boston hosted the Kings on Dec. 15 and blew a 2-0 lead heading into the third period. Adrian Kempe scored twice and the Kings eventually won 3-2 in a shootout.
It’s the only time in 20 games this season that the Bruins have lost when leading after two periods.
Boston left wing Jake DeBrusk could be a question mark after he blocked a shot off his lower left leg in the first period against Pittsburgh. He played the remainder of the game, but was photographed wearing a walking boot afterward.
DeBrusk is second on the Bruins with 16 goals and tied for third with 30 points.
“(DeBrusk) is a lot tougher than people think and he’s more committed than people are aware,” Montgomery said. “Because of those things, his game is growing. He’s matured and you can see it.”
Prior to leaving on the three-game California trip on Tuesday, the Bruins recalled forward Chris Wagner from Providence of the American Hockey League to give them an alternative if DeBrusk is unable to play.
–Field Level Media