Three weeks after their last home game, the Los Angeles Kings will get reacquainted with their home ice when they play host to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Wednesday.
At least it can’t get any worse since the last time the Kings were around these parts. They lost three consecutive home games, Jan. 4-8, before heading out on a long trip that led into the All-Star break.
The Kings also lost their last four games before the break, and have dropped seven of their past eight contests and 11 of 14.
Their first game after the break will offer a chance to hit the reset button, but at 18-27-5 (41 points), and last in the Western Conference, a playoff push is unlikely. A vow to simply get better every day would be the best way to handle the final two months of the schedule.
“We’re out of the playoffs by a little bit and certainly not the position we want to be in, but at the same time we’re trying to turn this thing around, so you want to go and steer this ship in the right direction,” the Kings’ lone All-Star representative, Anze Kopitar, told the Los Angeles Times.
Yet uncertainty surrounds the team that won Stanley Cup titles as recently as 2013-14 and 2011-12. Moves are possible before the Feb. 24 trade deadline. Tyler Toffoli could be a desired commodity, while Alec Martinez and Jeff Carter have also been mentioned as trade candidates.
“There’s going to be some stuff that’s going to get moved around, but at the same time you’ve just got to keep your head down and work towards our common goal, which is turn this thing around and get it going in the right direction,” Kopitar said.
The Lightning are in playoff contention, sitting in second place in the Atlantic Division at the start of play Tuesday. Although they did earn a point Monday, their hopes of getting off to a hot post-break start were foiled when they fell, 3-2, in overtime at Dallas.
Tampa Bay was just 2-2 in their final four games before the break following their 10-game winning streak that started just before Christmas. Monday’s defeat can fall into the category of post-break rust.
“We gave up more chances tonight on odd-man rushes than we’ve given up the last 20 games combined,” Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said.
Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, but his 10-game winning streak came to an end. Steven Stamkos scored two goals against the Stars. His third-period goal tied it with less than two minutes remaining after Vasilevskiy was pulled for an extra attacker.
Nikita Kucherov had two assists for the Lightning right out of the break and leads the team in goals (22), assists (34) and points (56). Tampa Bay was 0-for-4 on the power play.
“The power play wasn’t great (Monday), and we didn’t generate many high-quality chances,” the Lightning’s Brayden Point told NHL.com. “They did a good job and give them credit, but it’s on us to work out plays that can generate scoring chances.”
–Field Level Media