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Kings coach John Stevens facing his biggest crisis; Jonathan Quick injured again

Kings coach John Stevens facing his biggest crisis; Jonathan Quick injured again
Kings' Kyle Clifford, right, and Trevor Lewis celebrate Clifford's goal off Minnesota Wild's goalie Devan Dubnyk in the third period on Thursday. (Jim Mone / Associated Press)

Kings coach John Stevens and all other personnel, assistants and players, were accounted for when the team took the ice for practice.

That was newsworthy in itself because of the bright light on Stevens during a six-game losing streak and the franchise’s worst 10-game start in more than 30 years. It’s often the coach who feels consequences first, and Stevens recognized that when he addressed his concern with his job status Saturday.

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“Well, it’s the nature of the beast,” Stevens said. “We’re in this business to get the most out your team to win hockey games, and we haven’t performed very well. It’s not something I’m going to get up and worry about. When you get into this business, you know that you’re going to be held accountable for the success of the team, and I totally get that.

“I put all my effort into trying to help these players play their best and the team perform their best, but that comes with the territory. If that happens — and it happens a lot — I knew that getting into the business. We’re going to continue to try and improve this hockey team and trying to get this team on the right track. That’s always a threat in this business.”

Stevens and the Kings got bad news when Jonathan Quick suffered another lower-body injury, a team official confirmed late Saturday. Peter Budaj is expected to be recalled. It was first reported by the Athletic.

It is believed to be a different injury than what put Quick on injured reserve earlier this month. Quick practiced Saturday and is reportedly day to day.

It’s another hurdle for Stevens, who has seen his share of change. He replaced the fired Ken Hitchcock with the Philadelphia Flyers and three seasons later was fired. Stevens became the defensive-oriented assistant coach with the Kings before he replaced Darryl Sutter last year.

This is by far his biggest crisis.

“The hardest thing in our business is when you don’t have success, it’s actually harder than it was playing because you feel responsible for the group,” Stevens said. “In Los Angeles here, the standard has been set high. The team has accomplished a lot and is expected to win, and when it doesn’t, it’s unacceptable.”

Prior to this latest setback, Quick acknowledged their leadership unit has underachieved. Drew Doughty on Saturday owned up to a personally bad stretch that began Oct.15 against the Toronto Maple Leafs, under the intense watch of Canada.

“I was really disappointed with myself,” Doughty said. “It was big game for me. I really thought I was going to go into that game and play my best game I’ve ever played in my life. I obviously failed to do that. I was down on myself for a couple games.

“I’ve still got another level and I can still be better, but I know I failed us for a couple of games there, after the Toronto game and the one after that. I think from there on I’ve been playing much better. But I’ve still got another level.”

Doughty is minus-9 in his past five games. The Kings have allowed 21 even-strength goals in the six-game slump. Another disturbing trend is that in three of the past four losses, they’ve given up goals to the opponent’s bottom-six forwards.

Doughty also pointed to the leaders.

“We feel like this is on us — which it is on us,” he said. “So we want to go out there and make a difference and sometimes the difference is keeping it simple and helping the guys around you. I’ve tried both ways on this losing streak and I haven’t found the right one yet. I’m just going to try and go out there and just be me, be myself and play well and help all the guys around me as much as possible.”

Doughty was back with Derek Forbort in practice after a rare partnership with Alec Martinez. Dustin Brown was reunited with Anze Kopitar and Alex Iafallo. Jeff Carter, Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli were back together and the third line had Ilya Kovalchuk and Adrian Kempe paired, with Trevor Lewis and Michael Amadio taking turns on the other wing.

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Kempe hasn’t played with Kovalchuk much this season. Asked about that possibility for Sunday, Kempe summed up the bigger picture when he said, “It’s going to be interesting.”

UP NEXT VS. NEW YORK RANGERS

When: Sunday, 12:30 p.m.

On the air: TV: FSW; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)

Update: Gabriel Vilardi (back) was on the ice with the team in a step toward his integration into practice. The Rangers, under first-year coach David Quinn, seek their first road win (0-3-1). Defenseman Adam McQuaid (lower-body injury) is expected to be out.

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