Kings head to Canada needing small fixes for big problems – Press-Enterprise

The Kings head to Western Canada for back-to-back games against the Edmonton Oilers on Sunday and Vancouver Canucks on Monday, looking to reverse trends that have seen them on the short end of a series of close games.

Fifteen of the Kings’ 22 games this season have been decided by one goal or were one-goal games extended to two by a late empty-net goal. They have won just five of those 15.

“I think it always comes down to little things, the little details in a game, little mistakes here and there,” Kings defenseman Alex Edler said. “Whether it’s getting the puck behind them, turning the puck over here and there, if you do that too many times, eventually you’re going to get punched.”

Speaking of defensemen, the Kings’ system grew a bit thinner on the blue line Saturday when Kale Clague was claimed off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens. In other transactional news, center Blake Lizotte entered COVID-related protocol and prospect Akil Thomas was activated from injured reserve then sent to the minors. Center Jaret Anderson-Dolan was recalled, ostensibly to take Lizotte’s place, and forward T.J. Tynan was also recalled, though his previous call-ups have been strictly paper transactions.

Where Kings Coach Todd McLellan found little solace in the four one-goal losses within his team’s six-game losing streak earlier in the season, he has been a bit more encouraged albeit no less frustrated by the tightness of games during the Kings’ current funk. Of the Kings’ past eight games, seven have been one-goal games in the final minute or at the buzzer, and six of those seven outcomes have been losses.

“It’s a tough time right now, because if you’re bad, you’re really bad. You can go after the group and fix things, but we’re so close,” McLellan said. “We’ve got to get on the other side of those small mistakes.”

Offensive output has also been an issue. In half of their games, the Kings have scored two or fewer goals, and won just one of those contests.

That’ll be of serious concern against Edmonton, which McLellan coached during the nascent stages of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl’s career. Both have won the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP, and they rank one-two in scoring league-wide, just like they finished for the past two seasons.

Forward Ryan Nugent-Hopkins has been a point-per-game player, setting him on a course for a career-best campaign. Newcomer Zach Hyman has deepened Edmonton’s forward group, while Darnell Nurse and Tyson Barrie have anchored the back end.

Overall, the Oilers place third in goals per game. The Oilers’ 16 wins are tied for second in the NHL entering Saturday’s games. They’ve also been the best special-teams performer, ranking No. 1 in power-play conversion rate and No. 2 in penalty-kill percentage.

Vancouver’s 18 points have them tied for the fifth-worst record in the league. The Canucks’ production has been less prolific than that of the Kings, while Vancouver has allowed more than three goals per game. The Canucks have the worst penalty-kill percentage this season.


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