After consecutive home defeats and with the Buffalo Sabres coming to town Thursday night, new Los Angeles Kings head coach Todd McLellan is looking for accountability as he tries to rebuild team culture following an abysmal 2018-19 season.
McLellan appeared to send out a challenge this week to Kings winger Adrian Kempe, whose production has continued to diminish in the early part of the season with playing time that has been slashed.
Kempe does not yet have a goal this season, and his ice time has been reduced to less than 12 minutes a game over the past three games. He did not play at all in the third period Tuesday during the Kings’ 2-0 defeat to the Carolina Hurricanes, but he was also getting stitches after he was hit in the face by a puck.
“Quite frankly, he’s got to be way more productive than he’s been,” McLellan told reporters after the Tuesday loss. “I can try to justify his minutes and lack of, but he dictates how much he gets on the ice. At this point, I thought we would get a lot more from him.”
Before losing to Carolina, the Kings also fell 5-2 to the visiting Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday after a promising 7-4 victory over the visiting Nashville Predators on Saturday.
McLellan knows he will need all the production he can get during a meeting with the Sabres, who did not lose in regulation until they dropped a 5-2 decision in a physical road game against the Anaheim Ducks on Wednesday night.
Buffalo will not have to wait long to avenge the defeat and figure out a way to get their power play back on track. The Sabres had converted an NHL-best 42.9 percent of their power plays (9 of 21) to start the season, but they scored on just 1 of 7 against the Ducks.
That one power-play conversion came on a first-period goal from Victor Olofsson, whose production with the man advantage continued. All six of Olofsson’s goals this season, and all eight in his career, have come on the power play. He is the first player in NHL history to score his first eight career goals with a man advantage.
After Buffalo held its opponents to two goals or fewer in four of the first six games, the Ducks broke down the Sabres’ defense to score the final five goals Wednesday, including three in the second period to take the lead for good.
Sabres goalies Linus Ullmark and Carter Hutton have shared time so far this season, but after Ullmark was in goal during the Wednesday defeat, Hutton could be back in net against the Kings. Hutton recorded his first shutout with the Sabres on Monday in a 4-0 victory over the Dallas Stars.
The Sabres have been pleased with the play from both goalies.
“A lot of it is the fact that they both get to play then they both feel like they have a little bit of a rhythm going,” assistant coach Mike Bales, said, according to NHL.com. “One guy’s not going to sit for too long. So, they always feel game-ready because of that, too. It helps a lot.”
–Field Level Media