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Hockey

What we learned from the Kings’ 3-1 loss to Montreal

Montreal Canadiens v Los Angeles Kings
Rookie Matt Luff scored the Kings’ only goal during a loss to Montreal on Tuesday at Staples Center.
(Sean M. Haffey / Getty Images)

In a season full of new lows and sullen faces, the Kings will have to settle for the bright moments that pop up here and there.

On Tuesday, that was rookie Matt Luff scoring their only goal in a 3-1 loss to the Montreal Canadiens at Staples Center. It was a glimpse of what’s ahead for the Kings, while the loss itself was a reminder of what’s still here.

Luff scored against a team he grew up rooting for, in a game in which the Kings simply couldn’t match a purposeful Canadiens team and allowed a goal on an unforgivable giveaway.

That might be how it is for the Kings the rest of the way, with flashes of potential mixed with the mediocrity that’s kept them at the bottom of the standings.

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Here’s what we learned:

Give Matt Luff more playing time. Luff’s eight goals in 32 games are more impressive considering he averages fewer than 12 minutes a game. He played only seven minutes, six seconds on Tuesday and put three shots on goal in a fourth-line role. His goal was scored on one of his four shifts in the third period.

This is his fifth recall this season.

“I want to show that I can play here and try to earn a spot, and not be a guy who keeps going up and down,” Luff said. “I want to be the guy who stays up and keeps producing day in and day out.”

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Luff might get that chance if Austin Wagner is out for an extended period. Wagner was reportedly seen on crutches postgame. Coach Willie Desjardins has said he wants to see the kids play more, to the point where he benched Dion Phaneuf earlier this season to play other defensemen.

Now might be a good time to give Luff that longer look.

“He’s got a great shot, and that’s one thing he’s got to keep using, is finding ways to get that shot,” Desjardins said. “He got an opportunity and he put it away, which is great.”

Is it time to give Jack Campbell more starts? The Kings are not chasing a playoff berth, so there’s no need to ride their No.1 goalie hard at this time of the season. Jonathan Quick made his 13th start in 16 games Tuesday, and for one of those three non-starts he was too ill to dress.

Campbell has typically only given Quick nights off in back-to-back situations, and the Kings have one of those this weekend with games against the Ducks and Arizona Coyotes.

Is it time to adjust the goalie rotation?

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Quick has only played 36 games this season, but for a goalie with a significant injury history, it would make sense to lighten his workload. Campbell is still new to the NHL, but he does have a history against Montreal, having earned his first shutout against the Canadiens on Oct.11.

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If the Kings are bent on playing the younger players the rest of the way, then Campbell would seem to fall under that category as well.

More games like this, please. Tuesday’s game featured 46 total faceoffs, a remarkably low number in a modern NHL that regularly sees 60-plus faceoffs a game.

The NHL is concerned about the flow of play, specifically cutting down on stoppages. One of the changes it reportedly considered at its general manager meetings this week is not allowing teams to change lines if their goalie holds the puck for a whistle on shots that come from outside the blue line.

It’s no secret that some goalies freeze the puck strategically to give their team a stop in play. But from a game flow standpoint, there are 22 stoppages per game because of goalies freezing the puck, according to NHL.com.

Here’s for anything to make the game move faster.

curtis.zupke@latimes.com

Twitter: @curtiszupke


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