It’s unlikely that any NHL team is looking forward to the upcoming all-star break more than the stumbling Kings, who have won just two of their last eight games and only one of their last five at home following Wednesday’s 5-3 loss to the New Jersey Devils.
The Kings were in an even deeper dive at this time last season, having lost eight of 10 heading into the Olympic break. They regrouped during their time off, though, and won eight straight after the Olympics en route to a second Stanley Cup title.
Here are some of the things the team needs to clean up if it hopes to remain in a playoff race it is in danger of falling out of:
Special teams: The Kings have scored with the man advantage in only two of their six games in 2015 and have been shut out on 17 of their last 19 power-play opportunities. They were particularly inept Wednesday when they blew four chances, including three in a 10-minute span of the first period.
“We’ve got to capitalize on those, especially against a team like that,” defenseman Alec Martinez said.
The Devils certainly had little problem against the Kings’ penalty-kill unit, getting their first two goals on power plays. And, according to Kings Coach Darryl Sutter, that’s doubly damaging because not only is his team giving up scores, but it’s also wearing itself out in the process.
“Our penalty kill is draining us,” he said. “It takes so much out of the team.”
Expect Sutter to juggle his special teams before Saturday’s game with the Ducks.
“The penalty kill also is a little bit of the desire to do it, the experience to do it, the personnel to do it,” he said.
Get physical: Sutter has preached on this subject lately. And though the Kings outhit the Devils by a substantial margin Wednesday, they were soft in both creases, which led to three bad goals for New Jersey.
“The front of the nets, both ways,” Sutter said. “In the offensive part, and just in my mind, the only guy who went to the front of the net in the offensive zone at all was [Marian Gaborik]. The only guy.”
Play with a swagger: The Kings are the defending NHL champs but they aren’t playing like it. Not after giving up five goals -- including three in 68 seconds -- to a team that came into the game ranked 27th in the league in scoring.
“A lot of it is emotional,” admitted Justin Williams, whose team has allowed 28 goals in its last eight games.
But identifying the problem and fixing it are two different things.
“If I could pinpoint it I would nip it in the bud right away,” he said. “It’s another loss, another five goals against.”
For defenseman Matt Greene, it’s comes down to effort.
“It’s not good enough,” he said of the team’s effort Wednesday. “We just need more effort and a willingness to get it done. I’m speaking for myself, but that’s what has to get better. The coaches have been doing a good job of breaking it down for us every night. It’s just a matter of us showing up every night and doing it.”