Sports

Kings' Drew Doughty calls it 'best time of the year'

SportsLos Angeles KingsNHLDrew DoughtyDean LombardiCalgary FlamesAnze Kopitar

Three weeks ago, when the Kings were losing more often than any team in the NHL, they were telling anyone who would listen that they weren't as bad as they were playing.

So now that they've won three in a row it seems fair to ask whether they are as good as they've been playing.

The easy answer is, it's too early to tell. But there has clearly been progress.

With eight goals in less than 24 hours at Colorado and Calgary, the Kings equaled their total from the final eight games before the Olympic break. Dustin Brown, with a goal and an assist, played perhaps his best game of the season in Thursday's win over the Flames. And in turning back 25 shots in goal, Jonathan Quick gave the Kings a league-leading 10 shutouts, one shy of the franchise record for a single season.

A night earlier it had been Anze Kopitar carrying the load, scoring twice and adding an assist.

The Kings' special teams have stepped up too. In the win over Colorado, they scored on the power play for just the third time in 10 games. In Calgary they didn't allow a power-play score for the third time in 13 contests.

For defenseman Drew Doughty, all that is just the start. With the calendar flipping from February to March for Saturday's matinee with Carolina, the Kings are now entering what has become their favorite part of the season.

"This is the time we play best every year," Doughty said of the Kings, who have won 30 of 46 March games over the last three seasons. "We seem to put ourselves in a hole with 20 games left and then all of a sudden we're fighting for a spot in the playoffs.

"We're desperate right now to be getting points and to be winning games. This is the best time of the year."

Trading ideas

The Kings' recent resurgence may have lessened the urgency but probably not the need for General Manager Dean Lombardi to make a move before Wednesday's trade deadline.

Lombardi has made some masterful deadline deals in the past, getting center Jeff Carter from Columbus two years ago and winger Dustin Penner from Edmonton a year before that. And though the Kings could use another forward, with just five teams — Buffalo, Florida, the New York Islanders, Calgary and Edmonton — in position to sell, it may be difficult for Lombardi to fill that need.

So he may consider a different tack. After using his second-round selections in the next two drafts to pry Robyn Regehr from Buffalo last year, this may be a good time for the Kings to add draft choices rather than players at the deadline.

Extra points

After playing two games in two countries in about 26 hours, the Kings had a relaxed day Friday with less than a dozen players taking the ice at the team's midday practice. The rest of the players did light off-ice workouts while the Kings' six Olympians, who played through the NHL's three-week break, didn't show up at all.

Kings defenseman Matt Greene, who was on the ice for two of Colorado's three power-play goals Wednesday, appeared to come out of the game healthy but didn't suit up Thursday in Calgary — and the Kings killed all four of the Flames' power-play chances.

TODAY

VS. CAROLINA

When: 1 p.m.

On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: 1150.

Etc.: After winning consecutive games on the road for the first time since mid-December, the Kings return to the Staples Center, where they've lost three of their last four. Carolina is beginning a stretch of three games in four days in California.

kevin.baxter@latimes.com

Twitter: @kbaxter11

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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SportsLos Angeles KingsNHLDrew DoughtyDean LombardiCalgary FlamesAnze Kopitar
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