On the surface, the Kings’ final game before they take an 11-day break seems like a letdown waiting to happen.
Players, generally, are looking ahead to mental and physical rest. Some have already made getaway plans for the hiatus. The Kings will play their 50th game in 109 days on Monday.
But none of that applies to a team that just took a 7-1 loss in which the final score was no mirage.
“No one should be tired from the last game, the way we played,” Carl Hagelin said. “You’ve got make sure you’re playing close to your max. Not enough guys on the team are doing it right now. I don’t know if anyone’s doing it other than our goalies.”
Hagelin was one of the last players off the ice in a purposeful practice Sunday as the Kings re-grouped from a shameful showing against the Colorado Avalanche. The have one chance to make up for it in a nationally televised game against the St. Louis Blues before they enter a combined bye week and All-Star weekend.
Coach Willie Desjardins said he’s not preoccupied with his players being distracted going into extended time off. Saturday’s rout, their worst since an 8-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings in 2011, hits that point home.
“I can’t believe they’d be half-checked out,” Desjardins said. “For a lot of guys, it is frustrating to lose. That is tough. That part can make it hard. But saying that, the reason you’re here is because you love to play and you love to find ways to win. That’s why you’re here. I just can’t imagine that guys wouldn’t be ready for that.”
That hasn’t been the case consistently in regards to day games for the Kings. They are 3-4 in matinees this season, and that counts 5-1 losses to the Ottawa Senators and Buffalo Sabres in October in which they admitted the interest was absent. On last year’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day afternoon game, the Kings lost, 4-1, at home to the San Jose Sharks.
It’s a different routine to play earlier but “it shouldn’t be an excuse,” Nate Thompson said. “You come to play. We’re all professionals and should be ready to go.”
The Kings have shown some responses. They were beaten 6-2 by the Tampa Bay Lightning and won two days later against the Edmonton Oilers, 4-0, a few weeks back.
“This team does have some resilience,” Desjardins said. “It does come at times when you wonder what’s going to happen. [Monday’s] a big one for us.”
Oscar Fantenberg “probably won’t make it” for Monday, Desjardins said, because of an upper-body injury.
Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez were given rest days. Trevor Lewis is expected to start skating soon in his recovery from a broken foot.
VS. ST. LOUIS
When: Monday, 1 p.m.
On the air: TV: NBCSN; Radio: iHeartRadio (LA Kings Audio Network)
Update: St. Louis on Saturday broke up its top line of Jaden Schwartz, Brayden Schenn and Vladimir Tarasenko with David Perron out with an upper-body injury. The Kings beat the Blues 2-0 on Nov.19, behind Cal Petersen’s first shutout and goals by Anze Kopitar and Matt Luff, his first in the NHL.