Another possible setback for Kings' struggling penalty-kill unit

Nothing personal … really.

That's the way Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell took the recent critique of his penalty-killing skills, an edgy assessment by his coach, Darryl Sutter.

Sutter also included stay-at-home defenseman Matt Greene in his pointed remarks about the Kings' penalty-killing woes. The charm of most hockey players — at least veterans — is that they are the first to take responsibility, not umbrage.

"That's Darryl. Darryl being Darryl," said Mitchell, looking amused after Wednesday's practice. "You guys know that by now. With all honesty … me and Greener, we take a lot of pride in the penalty kill.

"That's my label as a player … a really good penalty killer around the league. If the penalty kill doesn't do well, of course, you take that personally."

Now the penalty-killing unit could be without Greene, who missed practice Wednesday. He is "banged up," according to Sutter, and it would be a surprise if he played against Buffalo on Thursday night. "It's like Mystery Valley for me," Sutter said. "It goes from legs to limbs to head."

Mystery Valley sounds like a new NHL definition of an injury, a far more interesting label than lower-body injury. And the Kings are dealing with a handful. Jeff Carter (foot) is on injured reserve, and Sutter is hopeful he could return during the team's Eastern trip next week. Center Jarret Stoll has been out since suffering an upper-body injury Saturday against Nashville.

Meanwhile, the penalty-killing unit continues to ail. Sutter was critical of Greene and Mitchell following the loss to Nashville, and the Kings have tumbled to 22nd in the league in penalty-killing.

"I still believe our penalty kill should be top five in the league," Mitchell said. "We've got great penalty killers up front when we're all healthy, great penalty killers on the back end, a world-class goaltender."

They slipped against the Calgary Flames on Oct. 21, allowing three power-play goals, and that has had a lingering effect.

"After that, I don't think we played with the swagger out on the penalty kill that maybe we should have," Mitchell said. "Sometimes you start thinking about it. Sometimes you do stuff, a little too much.

"Sometimes, a little less is more in this game. I'm not saying less intensity, I'm just saying less running around, less trying to do too much.

"…Because our power play has been really good here the last two, three, four years. Mostly it's teams coming in here and worrying about how we penalty kill, instead of us worrying about how they play their power play."


When: 7:30.

Where: Staples Center.

On the air: TV: FS West. Radio: 1150.

Record vs. Sabres (2012-13): Did not play.

Etc: Sabres goalie Ryan Miller faced a career-high 51 shots on goal in Tuesday's 5-4 shootout win against the San Jose Sharks. He is 2-10 this season, with both wins coming in shootouts.

Twitter: @reallisa

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World