Kings head east looking for spark, face Devils first
Los Angeles Kings coach Todd McLellan is convinced his team can match up with all the others in the NHL.
It's just a matter of showing it.
The Kings are scheduled to open a six-game East Coast road trip on Sunday evening at the New Jersey Devils.
The Kings have lost three in a row to put a damper on a strong run that was building shortly before Christmas and peaked with a four-game winning streak earlier this month. The burst shot Los Angeles up the Pacific Division standings.
"We need some things to go right for us offensively," McLellan said. "We explode for five or six and then, all of a sudden, we're back down to the one or two. Two's a bad number in the NHL, if you're thinking about offense."
McLellan said the difference lately has been that the Kings aren't finishing their prime scoring chances, while their opponents have been capitalizing on their opportunities.
That was especially apparent in Thursday's 4-1 loss to the high-scoring Colorado Avalanche, who visited after playing the night before at the Anaheim Ducks.
"(Colorado) capitalizes on (scoring opportunities), and it takes us an extra four or five chances to capitalize," McLellan said. "We're working towards that. We can't ask our players to play perfect. The defensive part of it, yeah, mistakes, we have to clean some of that up. The offensive part, we have to score more goals."
The Kings will face another team on Sunday that's playing the second night of back-to-back games.
The Devils won 7-4 against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night to end a three-game losing streak.
Kings rookie Quinton Byfield made his season debut against the Avalanche, and the second overall pick in the 2020 NHL Draft was even in his plus-minus while playing 15 minutes, including 5:15 on the power play.
"One real good night so far," McLellan said. "We hope that will continue."
After Byfield played six games with Los Angeles last season, totaling one assist, the Kings had high hopes for him this season, but he sustained an ankle injury in a preseason game against the Arizona Coyotes, eight days before the start of the regular season.
McLellan said Byfield's hard work from over the summer and during his rehabilitation was evident against Colorado.
"I thought he was quite good," McLellan said. "We talked as a group about the explosiveness of his legs, the timing, the comfort with the puck. He showed all of those things (against the Avalanche), a lot more than he did last year when he came up in those games."
Byfield said he can't wait to start stringing some NHL games together.
"Getting hurt in the preseason was definitely a setback, wasn't a great feeling, being out of hockey for 2 1/2, three months, it's not a good feeling, so I was excited to get back," he said. "I've still got a lot of career ahead of me. There's definitely the breaks you have to go through."
--Field Level Media
Updated January 23, 2022