Much like a teacher grading papers, Kings coach John Stevens has lately had to reach deep into his desk for the big red pen.
In a span of 10 days, the Kings have flunked miserably, against the Vancouver Canucks and Nashville Predators, and they know that final exams are right around the corner. They practiced Friday only a point out of a top-three guaranteed playoff spot in the Pacific Division, but sat 10th in the Western Conference with three teams ahead of them in the wild-card standings.
"I think those lessons need to run deep for us," Stevens said. "We're getting into the second half here. There's a big group of teams that are all fighting for position, and we're one of them. I think Vancouver and Nashville are two of the worst games we've played this year."
The Kings responded to a 6-2 loss to Vancouver on Jan. 23 with two statement-type wins, and Saturday is an opportunity to do so again. But the red flag in a 5-0 loss in Nashville could have covered the Great Smoky Mountains, and the Kings have their work cut out to put an apple on Stevens' desk.
"We got pushed off the puck in all three zones," Stevens said. "I wouldn't put it on any individual. The team game was ignored in Vancouver. I thought the compete level was not where it needed to be in Nashville."
It was a complete reversal of how the team played against the Dallas Stars in the previous game, a curious turn that Christian Folin said is related.
"I think we were still kind of stuck in the Dallas game a little bit," Folin said. "We kind of had that game in the back of our head. [We thought] everything was going to be easy. I think we had a fairly good start, and then they just took over. … It gave us homework to do.
"You've got to learn from your mistakes when you play that bad like [Thursday] night. We have a strong group of guys that know how to win, that know how to play in this league. I think we're definitely going to rebound."
Alec Martinez and Derek Forbort did not practice and are day to day because of injuries while Tanner Pearson sat out with illness, the team said. Stevens said Martinez's lower-body injury is not related to the injury that forced him out of the season's first three games. "I would say he's day to day," Stevens said. "I wouldn't expect him to be long term." …
Dustin Brown is the Kings' ambassador for the NHL's Hockey Is For Everyone initiative for the second consecutive year. The initiative celebrates diversity and inclusivity throughout the hockey community.
When: 7:30 p.m., Saturday.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 790.
Update: Arizona goalie Antti Raanta was held out of Thursday's game following his involvement in a car accident but was expected to travel for Saturday, according to the Arizona Republic. Raanta has been a bright spot for the Coyotes with a 1.93 goals-against average and .933 save percentage in January.