When Tanner Pearson got off to a hot start this season, he didn’t have any illusions that it would be like that the rest of the way.
Pearson scored four goals in his first three games in an almost identical start to two seasons ago, and that took an awful turn. He scored only eight more times in the ensuing three months before his season ended because of a fractured fibula
“I learned my lesson a couple years back,” Pearson said.
Not that Pearson is a sage veteran at 24, but that experience taught him that consistency is elusive and seasons can change drastically.
Since this season’s opening outburst, he had scored only four goals in 31 games going into Saturday’s contest against the San Jose Sharks.
His struggle reflects the Kings’ offensive issues. They had scored 11 goals in seven previous games, and five of those goals were from Jeff Carter.
“We’ve been too inconsistent, which has been our biggest issue,” Drew Doughty said. “We haven’t scored enough goals … I think it’s just scoring on our chances. It’s not that we haven’t got shots or good looks at the net. When we get those looks, we’ve got to score.”
It’s easy to point out that Kings haven’t been able to adequately replace Milan Lucic and his 20 goals and 55 points from last season. They’ve had to find goals internally, and it’s been more difficult when Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik aren’t at their usual clips.
Pearson is regarded as more of a two-way forward but he is also expected to contribute offensively, especially since he’s mostly played beside skill players Carter and Kopitar this month and sees time on the power play.
Add in the absence of injured Tyler Toffoli, and the need for production from the Kings’ secondary forwards such as Pearson becomes more pronounced. Kings Coach Darryl Sutter said Pearson has been strong in possession and man-advantage situations, but Pearson knows it hasn’t translated to the scoresheet.
“You’ve just got to keep on doing the little things,” Pearson said. “I think you keep on getting your shots and getting your looks, which I think have been coming. Sooner or later one’s going to go in. You keep on putting stuff to the net. Even if you don’t score, you’re going to create something or a second chance.”
If Pearson sounds like he’s been around the game long enough to know its ebbs and flows, it might trace back to his days as a water boy and stick boy for the junior hockey Kitchener Rangers. He remembers fetching sticks for current NHL players Jakub Kindl, Mikkel Boedker and Steve Mason and seeing them work through frustration.
Pearson’s road to the NHL saw him get passed over twice in the draft. He wasn’t even drafted into the Ontario Hockey League until the 14th round, and he later suffered a broken leg as a 19-year-old.
Pearson still works out under Kitchener strength coach Brandon Merli, and those offseason sessions help him get through the pounding his body takes during these spells. He ended a long one Wednesday with his first goal in six weeks.
“Everyone has those stretches, and mine was a bit longer that I would have liked,” Pearson said. “I got one the other day and hopefully it gets me back on track and gets the ball rolling.”