Kings try to stay on track versus Avalanche
A few years ago the Los Angeles Kings were celebrating their second Stanley Cup title in three seasons and looking like a budding dynasty.
The once-formidable franchise is occupying the basement of the NHL these days and thinking more about positioning for the No. 1 pick in the 2019 draft than winning another title. At least that was the narrative a few weeks ago.
The Kings have shown life lately, winning four straight -- three against teams in playoff position -- before falling to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday night. Los Angeles will try to keep its momentum going when it plays at the struggling Colorado Avalanche on Monday night.
The Kings (15-21-3) are still eight points out of the second wild card in the West with half the season left. How thing unfold over the next couple of weeks could determine if the franchise becomes a seller before the trade deadline. The players are just focusing on what is happening on the ice.
"I think we're trying to just take it one game at a time, quite honestly," Los Angeles forward Dustin Brown told the Los Angeles Times on Thursday. "We have a lot of new guys with not a lot of experience of what it takes to win at this level."
The Kings are surging as the Avalanche are stumbling. Colorado has lost four in a row, including an overtime setback to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday night. Scoring has become an issue after the Avalanche were one of the top offensive teams through the first two months of the season.
In five of the last six games, Colorado has scored two goals or fewer and the one contest it had four goals was a loss at Arizona.
The struggles led to coach Jared Bednar shaking up his top two lines to create a spark. Despite the trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabe Landeskog combining for 160 points before Saturday's game Bednar moved Landeskog to the second line and put Matt Nieto with MacKinnon and Rantanen.
By the second period, Landeskog was back on the top line. He played well but his double minor late in the third period led to a Chicago power-play goal in overtime.
"Landy is a heck of a player," Colorado forward Alexander Kerfoot told HockeyBuzz.com about the team's captain. "Whatever line's he's playing on, he'll help them produce and help them be consistent. We're lucky to play with him tonight. He's very consistent in what he brings every night. You know what you're getting out of him."
Colorado (19-13-7) has three games left on this homestand and needs to turn things around. Despite going 3-7-2 in the last 12 games the Avalanche are still in third place in the Central Division.
They will try to shore up some of their defensive issues, which may help get the offense going.
"We want to be dangerous offensively, but we've got to be better on the defensive side, both on the rush and in our zone," Bednar said Saturday night.
Updated December 30, 2018