Maybe it was the 1 p.m. matinee start. Or the long holiday weekend. Or maybe it was the residue of the six-day NHL bye week, which ended just a few days earlier.
Whatever the cause, many of the Kings didn’t appear present for all of their team’s 4-1 loss to a motivated San Jose Sharks team Monday at Staples Center.
“Some guys were really off tonight,” said coach John Stevens, whose team has lost four straight, matching a season worst. “And it showed.”
Here’s what else we learned:
The Kings really miss defenseman Jake Muzzin
A team leader, Muzzin missed his third game Monday with an upper-body injury and the team hasn’t won since he went on injured reserved. The Kings have also been without forward Jeff Carter since mid October.
“Jake and Jeff are both a huge part of this team,” said center Trevor Lewis, who scored the Kings’ only goal with his team trailing 3-0 in the third period. “But we’ve got guys that can step in and fill a role. We’ve just got to get better.”
The Kings need to back up their words with actions
Stevens and some of his players talked before Monday’s game about how the matchup with the division-rival Sharks was a game with playoff implications. The team has also talked about the need to play hard from the opening faceoff to the final whistle. Then San Jose went out and took the lead in the first five minutes and never looked back. It was the third straight game in which the Kings never led.
“We want to come out and have a good start and play good for 60 minutes,” forward Adrian Kempe said. “That’s something we tried to look at and tried to bounce to, as we’ve done before. We didn’t play good at all for 60 minutes tonight. We have to go back and look at some things and try to be better.”
Stevens is running out of solutions — and patience
The coach said the absence of Carter and Muzzin has created opportunities for young players, but those opportunities have not been seized. So Tuesday morning the Kings sent defenseman Oscar Fantenberg and Kurtis MacDermid down to Ontario and called up forward Michael Amadio and defenseman Paul LaDue.
“I thought we had some good efforts from our key veteran guys, but they cannot do it on their own,” Stevens said after Monday’s loss. “You go to your lineup, there’s young guys getting an opportunity to play more, young veterans getting an opportunity, more responsibility in the lineup. We have to get our team reset on both sides of the puck … and play with a little urgency.”
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