Kings expect opponents to always bring their 'A game'

Kings learning more new lessons in second defense of Stanley Cup

They've had the necessary experience, going through the long and winding journey as reigning Stanley Cup champions.

But when the Kings first won the Cup in 2012, they didn't start their defense until 2013, opening the shortened season on Jan. 19 because of the NHL's lockout.

This time, obviously, is different. It's a new experience for forwards Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli, defenseman Jake Muzzin and goalie Martin Jones. They weren't on the 2012 championship team, and in fact, Pearson wasn't drafted until shortly after the first Cup victory.

But one thing never changes. The champion is always going to be the big target. You can rightly assume the Kings aren't going to face an opponent's B game, or even an A-minus game.

"We're getting hit with everyone's best," Muzzin said Sunday after practice. "And we've brought that on ourselves. You win, and you get hit with people's best every night.

"They want to knock off the champs, and that's what we're getting. I think we're getting better at preparing for that. Maybe a couple of games early on, we didn't really prepare for getting teams' best. I think we're doing a better job at preparing for their 'A games.' "

It doesn't matter if they are at home or on the road.

"We're getting it everywhere," Muzzin said. "They want to prove to the league and to themselves they can beat the champs."

Of note, the Kings' point total is one better after 27 games than it was in 2013. They are 14-8-5 and were 15-10-2 in 2013.

They start a five-game trip Tuesday in Buffalo. After that, they travel to Ottawa, Montreal, Toronto and St. Louis. For many of the players who were born and raised in Ontario, it will offer a chance to play in front of family and friends.

Toffoli said some of his family members would be making the trip for the Sabres game, and it will be the first time he has seen them since the Kings were in Detroit on Oct. 31.

Clifford travels

Kings left wing Kyle Clifford, who missed practice on Sunday because of flu-like symptoms, was able to travel with his teammates to Buffalo. The Kings, who have three games in four days, did not practice Monday.

Last visit

A tumultuous chain of events unfolded the last time the Kings were in Buffalo, more than a year ago, on Nov. 12. No. 1 goaltender Jonathan Quick of the Kings injured his groin in overtime and was out of action for weeks. The Sabres beat the Kings, 3-2, in a shootout and announced a general manager and coaching change the next day.

KINGS TUESDAY

AT BUFFALO

When: 4:30 PST.

On the air: TV: Fox Sports West. Radio: 790.

Etc. The Kings have not won in Buffalo since 2003, going 1-8-1 in their last 10 visits.

lisa.dillman@latimes.com

Twitter: @reallisa

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