What we learned from the Kings’ 2-0 loss at San Jose:
They’ll spend Christmas second in the Pacific division and the Western conference
Considering the Kings missed the playoffs season, that’s pretty impressive. So are their 22-11-4 record for 48 points and their +24 goal differential (they’ve scored 109 and allowed 85). They’re tied with the Vegas Golden Knights in points but the expansion Golden Knights have a better winning percentage because they’ve played fewer games (34), to the Kings’ 37. (St. Louis also has 48 points but has played 38 games). A win on Saturday would have put the Kings alone in first in the division and the conference, but former King Martin Jones stymied them by making 28 saves.
“A lot of credit to him but I think we could have done more, for sure. Absolutely,” Kings center Anze Kopitar said. “Which is always the case, anyway. They played good. They didn’t give us too much. The first was pretty good on our part, the second period we got stalled with the penalties, and taking a few more in the third is not going to create any momentum, and that’s what happened.”
The holiday break is coming at the right time
They need a chance to heal and catch their collective breath, and they’ll get it because they don’t play again until Thursday, when they face the Golden Knights at Staples Center. The Kings on Saturday put forward Kyle Clifford (upper-body) back on injured reserve and recalled goaltender Jack Campbell from Ontario (Calif.) of the American Hockey League on an emergency basis before the game. Coach John Stevens said afterward that a flu bug was going around the team and he wanted Campbell as insurance, though he wouldn’t say which goalie was ailing. Jonathan Quick played and Darcy Kuemper was the backup, so it became a moot point. Still, a few days off will be welcome. “It’s definitely going to come in handy,” Kopitar said “It’s that time of the year where the bumps and bruises come out a bit, so to take some time off it’s definitely going to do us good to rest up and get ready for the next stretch of games.”
The road is getting tougher
After playing a schedule that was heavy on Eastern Conference opponents, the Kings will dive into a West-heavy stretch. Their loss to San Jose on Saturday was their first of eight in a row against West opponents, and it left them 7-6-3 against the West (including a 3-4-2 record against Pacific division rivals). They’re 15-5-1 against the East. So they should enjoy the holiday while they can, because the intensity will pick up after Christmas.