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Kings look to improve defense, goaltending, consistency at midseason

Kings, who play N.Y. Rangers on Thursday, look for tighter defense, more consistency in season's second half

With four days between their 7-6 overtime loss to Nashville on Saturday and a Stanley Cup Final rematch against the New York Rangers on Thursday at Staples Center, the Kings went through a lengthy practice Monday that included special-teams work and players getting some individual instruction.

“We talked to the guys before we went on the last trip to get a really good, almost like a game practice in, in terms of minutes, with the four days,” Coach Darryl Sutter said.

The focus for the next few days will be simple.

“Just the structure of our game, system-wise, and in particular some of our younger players that really lose their detail,” he said, adding that Monday would probably be the heaviest day in terms of working on their system, “and then you’ve got to get going into games again.”

He also said he wants goaltenders Jonathan Quick and Martin Jones to be thinking they’re in the .950 save percentage range.

“And that should be in practice too,” Sutter said. “You drop below .920 in the league, you’re just getting average goaltending, when you look at it. It used to be that .900 was good, which meant nine out of 10 was a good number, but it’s not anymore…. That’s a high standard but that’s what’s real. That’s today’s game.” Quick’s save percentage is .917 and Jones’ is .908.

The Kings (19-12-9) will reach the halfway mark of the season on Thursday against the Rangers, who will face the Ducks on Wednesday at Anaheim. The game will be the second of a seven-game homestand for the Kings, who are looking for tighter defensive play and more consistency in the second half of the season than they’ve had in the first half.

“In some areas I think we’ve got a lot of things to work on. In some areas, we’re close,” center Jarret Stoll said. “We’re not going to win games, 7-6. We’re going to win games, like you guys all know, 3-1, 2-1, 3-2. It all comes from our defensive side of things, from our goaltender on out, working together as a five-man group. We’re a little inconsistent that way. We know that.”

He also said the Kings’ 5-8-6 road record must improve. “You’re probably not going to make the playoffs if you don’t improve your road record,” he said.

Defenseman Drew Doughty said the Kings have been too inconsistent about playing to their capabilities.

“We’re not close to where we need to be. We really need to turn it around quickly here,” he said. “We’re not happy with how we’re playing. It’s halfway through the season right now and we’re just barely in a playoff spot. We obviously want to have a lot more ground in front of other teams.

“We’re not happy with where we are. We’ve still got a lot of work to do. The thing is, we know what we have to do. We’ve just got to go out there and do it.”

Also, the team announced two scoring changes from recent games.

In their game against Vancouver on Jan. 1, the Kings’ goal at 17:53 of the third period should read Justin Williams, from Drew Doughty and Dustin Brown. The second assist had previously been credited to Alec Martinez.

In their game against Nashville on Jan. 3, the Kings’ first goal, initially credited to Matt Greene, was awarded to Mike Richards after review showed that Richards had tipped it. Greene instead gets an assist.

It’s not often that scoring plays are changed so long after a game, but it will happen if a player thinks he deserves a point he wasn’t initially awarded or if he thinks he got credit for a goal or an assist that should have been awarded to a teammate.

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