Rarely does one feel guilty about scoring a goal, but Alex Iafallo admitted feeling sheepish about his last one.
He got his stick on Drew Doughty’s shot just as it was going into the net and, after a long delay to announce the goal, Iafallo was credited with the score Tuesday against the Winnipeg Jets.
“I wish it wasn’t me,” Iafallo said.
Iafallo could smile about it because it happened in a win. He would gratefully sacrifice personal statistics if that translated to more wins, which have been difficult to come by as Iafallo’s production increases.
He has scored seven goals, only two short of his total last season, and he’s well ahead of the pace from his 25-point rookie season. The aforementioned goal extended his point streak to a career-high five games. But he’s on a last-place team and that’s an adjustment for a player who turns 25 on Friday.
“Definitely going through these hardships and trying to be prepared for every situation is something [new],” Iafallo said. “I’m still pretty young on this team. I’m just trying to learn from the older guys and trying to push myself every game and every day.”
Iafallo’s uptick in production can be tied to more power-play time after he was almost strictly an even-strength player last season. His average ice time of 17 minutes 5 seconds is two minutes more than his rookie season.
What doesn’t show on the scoresheet is the forechecking pressure and nuance in Iafallo’s game. He has a knack for freeing up pucks and extending possessions with his stick work in the corners. His chemistry with Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown is largely why interim coach Willie Desjardins has kept them intact as the top line.
“Game in and game out, it’s been our best line,” Desjardins said. “When you have that, then you probably will leave them together.”
Iafallo has primarily been with the two veterans since he made the Kings out of training camp last season. It’s a unique line of continuity that has benefited Iafallo, who is used to uninterruptedness after five years with center Dominic Toninato, from junior hockey through college.
“They give me a lot of advice,” Iafallo said. “After some shifts, they’re telling me to control the puck down low. They’re saying, ‘We’ve got a three-on-two, hold the puck a little longer and chip it or take it to the net.’ Things like that, they help out a lot. Playing with them elevates your game.”
The veterans have been vocal about this season’s frustrations, and Iafallo isn’t thrilled about it either.
“The type of season [and how] it’s gone for us, I’ve been more [ticked] off and I’m just trying to implement [that] into my game and try and take it to the next level as well,” Iafallo said. “We want more wins and I’m just trying to do my job and help the team get to that next level.”
Nikita Scherbak scored on his first shot as a King on Dec. 8. Apparently the honeymoon ended there.
Scherbak played one shift in the second period Tuesday and none in the third. Last Saturday, he played one shift in the third. Desjardins said that Scherbak has to earn ice time and, “I didn’t think he was at that level.”
Scherbak is pointless in five games since his debut, although he showed some offensive spark with Adrian Kempe and Tyler Toffoli before Desjardins changed the lines.
“I hope that he gets his game [in order] so that he’s a factor with every shift,” Desjardins said. “I’d love to see that. I think he’s a good young player, and I think he cares, so hopefully he’ll come around and when he gets his chance, he’ll play that way.”
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