Monday night’s late free fall against the Calgary Flames at Staples Center pretty much crystallized the Kings’ recent problems and what they will put at the top of their wish list coming out of the Christmas break.
Seeking consistency. Or avoiding inconsistency.
They still haven’t found what they’re looking for — a slight tweak of that venerable U2 song — which is consistency and more success on the road, considering the Kings have just four wins away from Staples Center in 16 games.
In less than a week, they squandered third-period leads at St. Louis and against the visiting Flames. They won three straight games from Nov. 15 to Nov. 20, but haven’t been able to repeat that since.
“One of our concerns probably is the consistency,” Kings Assistant General Manager Rob Blake said Tuesday. “Last night was an example — 3-0 and you let your foot off the gas.
“The Kings team and part of the way they played the last few years, they would go out and get that fourth goal.”
The recent return of injury-riddled Marian Gaborik, and his scoring surge, has helped stabilize the lineup. He has seven goals in his last five games.
“The big guys have started to come around, Gaborik being healthy, with Kopi [Anze Kopitar],” Blake said. “We can finally settle in some of our lines for a stretch, which we haven’t been able to do.”
Another item on the wish list is the stabilization of the defense corps. The Kings’ No. 1 defenseman, Drew Doughty, was injured before training camp and that set him behind even though he has not missed any regular-season games.
His partner, Jake Muzzin, suffered a broken thumb near the end of training camp and missed the first 2 1/2 weeks of the regular season. This meant newcomer Brayden McNabb was paired with Doughty.
Stay-at-home defenseman and veteran penalty-killer Robyn Regehr missed three games in November, is currently on injured reserve with a fractured finger and could be out another two to three weeks.
The uncertain status of defenseman Slava Voynov has been a lingering issue since the third week of the season. Voynov, who played in the first six games, remains indefinitely suspended with pay by the NHL and is due to stand trial on a felony domestic violence charge.
The Kings did not receive any salary-cap relief until after Voynov was charged with a felony. They were short one player at Philadelphia on Oct. 22, and later in the season they went with five defensemen instead of the usual six.
“The absence of Slava, that was the unknown coming into this year,” Blake said.
All those factors accelerated the development of McNabb, whose previous NHL experience consisted of 37 games with the Buffalo Sabres. With the Kings, he has 10 assists in 35 games and is a minus-two on the plus-minus scale. His confidence is growing.
“It’s allowed McNabb to really kind of blossom,” Blake said. “We got to see him play big minutes. Our defense corps will be a little more solid because of that.
“Realistically, if we would have had Slava, and a healthy Robyn, [Matt] Greene, Drew, a healthy Muzzin, [McNabb’s] minutes are probably down, based on those five ahead of him. What has happened is he’s had to eat up a lot of minutes here.
“We’ve got a real good taste of where he’s headed and what track he is on. I think he’s going to be very valuable for us.”
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