The Kings went through slumps during the 2011-12 season and last season too and still went on to win the Stanley Cup.
So merely looking at their recent slide — they had won just one of six games before facing the St. Louis Blues Thursday at Staples Center — isn’t reason to panic.
What should be analyzed is what’s different about this slump compared to those other down periods, if anything, and what can be done to fix this.
One obvious difference this season is on defense: Salary-cap considerations led General Manager Dean Lombardi to let Willie Mitchell leave as a free agent, and Slava Voynov has missed most of the season as the result of an alleged domestic violence incident against his wife. A judge ruled earlier this week that there’s enough evidence for the Russian defenseman to stand trial on a felony domestic violence charge.
“We’re obviously missing two guys who are very good players, but we also have other guys that have stepped up to the plate and are playing bigger minutes and are playing well for us too,” defenseman Drew Doughty said.
But one of those replacements — Brayden McNabb — struggled during the Kings’ recent trip and was -4 defensively in the last three games, losses at Montreal, Toronto and St. Louis. And the Kings won the Cup last season after losing Rob Scuderi to free agency, so they’ve shown they can adjust to change.
What’s not clicking now?
“I don’t know what it is, exactly,” Doughty said after the Kings’ morning skate in El Segundo.
“We need more consistency from all of our players. Some guys show up one night and they don’t the other. We need everyone to show up every single night, and that’s how we’re going to win games, is we need our top players to play their best and outplay [opponents’] top players, and we need our role guys to outplay their role guys. I think if everyone consistently starts showing up every night, that’s how we’ll win games.”
But Doughty said whatever ails the Kings can be corrected.
“We can get out of this. We went through these little slumps before. This one might be a little bigger than we’re used to,” he said. “That just makes it a bigger challenge.
“And that’s what’s awesome about this team: when we’re given a challenge we rise to the occasion and we overcome that challenge, so that’s what we’re expecting to do.”
Defenseman Matt Greene said it simply comes down to the fact that the Kings could and should be playing better.
“We’re making a lot of mistakes right now. We’re not playing the right way. Just not getting the bounces and making mistakes, and we need to rectify that,” Greene said.
He also said their woes had nothing to do with having played so many playoff games over the past three seasons.
“Just mental and physical errors, that’s it,” he said. “Everybody’s a pro. Everybody shows up to work; it doesn’t matter what happened in June. What matters is what’s happening right now.”
Coach Darryl Sutter opted not to speak to reporters after the skate and instead sent Assistant Coach Davis Payne, who hadn’t seen that many cameras and microphones in a while -- probably since he coached the Blues, from Jan. 2, 2010, until Nov. 6, 2011.
“I don’t know the last time I did anything newsworthy,” Payne said. “It’s been awhile.”
He said he wasn’t sure he’d call the Kings’ 1-4-1 stretch a slump, saying there had been some good performances during that time. “We’ve got some things we obviously want to get better,” he said. “It’s results but lots of belief in our room.
“You certainly can’t give up five goals. We did that a couple times on the road. We know what we’re about as far as checking, as far as denying opportunities, and we need to make sure we’ve got all 18 [skaters] and two [goaltenders] ready and prepared to do that.”
He also said he no longer feels any emotional ties to the Blues, his previous employer.
“It’s a long time ago,” said Payne, who had a record of 67-55-12 as the Blues’ coach. “I’m black, white and silver. This is about our team beating their team.”
Jonathan Quick is expected to start in goal for the Kings, with Martin Brodeur, the NHL’s career leader in games played (1.262), wins (690) and shutouts (124) expected to start for the Blues. Brodeur, whose 21-season career with the New Jersey Devils included three Stanley Cup championships and a loss to the Kings in the 2012 Cup Final, is no mystery.
“We’ve seen everything we need to see. He hasn’t won all those games without us understanding what he’s about,” Payne said of Brodeur, who signed with the Blues after Brian Elliott was injured and is 2-1-0 with a 2.64 goals-against average and .904 save percentage in three appearances this season.
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