After 41 games last season, the
They had won five times on the road in 19 opportunities and as reigning
Halfway through this season, the Kings lead the division with 55 points, nine ahead of second-place Arizona. They've won 13 games on the road, two shy of their total last season.
"Our players have been better in the tough part of the schedule because the top guys, the stars on our team, didn't like what happened to them last year," Sutter said. "And our young guys, it's not a good feeling for a young player when he hasn't played a playoff game.
"It doesn't matter how many games you've played in the
The Kings completed their first half this season with a 2-1 loss to the
Sutter and the Kings also were angered by a call in the third period on defenseman Brayden McNabb, a five-minute major for charging and an automatic game misconduct. McNabb backed into
"The guy is falling down and Brayden made contact, so [Paajarvi's] head is right down around [McNabb's knees], so what's your interpretation of it?" Sutter said after the game. "Probably the same as mine."
Rob Blake, the Kings' assistant general manager, said via email: "It was absolutely the wrong call. Not even a minor penalty."
Scoring for the Kings was center Anze Kopitar, his 11th goal. After a slow start, Kopitar has 11 points in the eight games since the Christmas break. Kopitar has been held off the scoresheet in only three games since going pointless at Columbus on Dec. 8.
"He's taken on more of the 'my team mentality.' I think you can see that," Sutter said. "He's demonstrated emotion way more on a game-to-game basis than ever. He has got that attitude: If you want to beat us, 'Come through me.' "
The first half of the season featured defenseman
Another intriguing element emerged last week. The Kings acquired veteran center Vinny Lecavalier and defenseman
Suddenly, regular forwards Nick Shore and Andy Andreoff were healthy scratches the last two games. And defenseman
"They're really team oriented, but I think there's competition too. The trade, bringing Luke and Vinny in put more competition in the locker room," Sutter said. "That's always important.
"I tell the players, there's the one thing I can control: your ice time. If you're doing, not just what I want but what everybody wants, then you're going to get your ice time. If you don't, then you're not.
"That's just a really honest clear way. We know how close we were last year to making the playoffs. We also know what it is like not to make it. I just keep saying: our only goal is to make the playoffs."
KINGS NEXT UP
When: Monday, 7:30 p.m.
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.