What we learned from the Kings’ 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild on Wednesday:
That they can win on the road.
OK, that’s a slightly snarky statement -- or overstatement -- but they played pretty much a perfect road game to win for only the second time this season away from Staples Center (2-4-4).
And it was all predicted earlier in the day by Justin Williams when he spoke to The Times after the team held a meeting and an optional skate.
The Kings got goals from three of their four lines, steady defensive play and solid goaltending from Martin Jones. They also killed off two disadvantages. They also were 0-for-three on the power play and are two for 32 on the road with a man advantage, but hey, it gives them something to work on.
That Drew Doughty doesn’t have to play 30-plus minutes every game:
Being comfortably ahead from the first period onward gave Coach Darryl Sutter the luxury of cutting Doughty’s minutes to a semi-reasonable number. He played 25 minutes and 36 seconds on Wednesday, down from 33:40 at Nashville on Tuesday and 33:07 against Dallas last Saturday. Jamie McBain played 17:07, the most in eight games since he signed with the Kings, and picked up an assist.
With Alec Martinez (finger surgery) likely to return Saturday, the lineup and ice-time numbers will change. But Sutter has gotten a lot out of a pieced-together group that has lacked suspended defenseman Slava Voynov since the first six games of the season.
That the Kings’ championship mentality is still there:
The kind of physical game they play is impossible to sustain over an 82-game regular season and what has been a long (and rewarding) playoff run the last three seasons. They will have lulls. Players will have slumps. Fans will cry for Mike Richards’ head (though he has shown signs of life lately and has two goals and three points in the last four games). Other fans will demand that Dustin Brown be traded, though he too has been contributing offensively lately.
The point is, Williams said they needed a road win on Wednesday and they got it. He said they needed to avoid falling behind and chasing the game, and they scored four times in the first period and were in command all the way. Brown said they needed the road win to avoid a long road losing streak, and they won emphatically.
There will be other bumps along the way, but the determination of players at the core of this team continues to carry the day. Players brought in by General Manager Dean Lombardi -- some who were labeled problems with other teams -- have bought into the program and are influenced by the leaders, instead of them adversely changing the leaders’ focus.
There’s a long way to go and issues to resolve, chiefly whether the Kings will be without Voynov the rest of the season as he goes through the legal process after being charged with a felony for an incident involving his wife on Oct. 19. How do they replace him? It’s likely they can’t replace him with one player, because defensemen of his caliber are tough to find. But the willpower and hunger of the core leaders is still the Kings’ touchstone, and that drive can push them a long way.
One other thing we learned:
Well, we didn’t learn this from the game but it’s still worth mentioning here. Kings TV play-by-play voice Bob Miller will receive special awards at the 65th Golden Mike Awards on Jan. 24, according to the Radio and Television News Assn. of Southern California.
Miller will receive the organization’s Lifetime Achievement Award. News anchor Maria Elena Salinas of Noticiero Univision will be honored as a “Broadcast Legend.”
Congratulations to both.
And happy Thanksgiving to all.