As the Kings wobble in their own zone, they will seek short-term stability during a visit from one of the NHL’s lowest scoring teams Thursday, the Arizona Coyotes, who might also help the Kings resolve their defensive struggles in the long run with a titillating trade piece.
Additionally, the Kings placed goalie Cal Petersen on waivers following a 9-8 overtime defeat Tuesday by the Seattle Kraken. It tied for the highest scoring regular-season contest in Kings history, resembling a video game more than an NHL match, with its dizzying torrent of scoring and only intermittent structure from the two sides.
Coach Todd McLellan said that his club lost Tuesday’s game as a group and that every area of his roster merited examination. On a night where both teams seemed porous and particularly poor defending the slot, the Kings also saw turnovers factor into goals against with their two goalies taking a nearly even number of lumps.
Despite McLellan’s comments and the fact that the Kings canceled the on-ice portion of their work Wednesday, that evaluation began with a bang as Petersen, he of the $5 million cap hit and .868 save percentage, was placed on waivers. The move will likely land him in the minors on Thursday.
“We have to look at each of the positions, starting with goal, and then D, and then the forwards, and we’ll break down the opportunities that we gave up,” McLellan said. “We gave up 30 shots on goal and nine goals, so where were they getting the grade-A chances?”
Center Phillip Danault said the game had a strange feel from the outset and that although he’d never been part of such a loose, back-and-forth affair, the Kings had to glean wisdom from the loss.
“Be stronger defensively, for one. When we make little mistakes, they cost us every single time,” he said. “We can’t just keep doing it game after game, we have to learn from this. If we want to be a winning team, and go far in the playoffs, we have to work on it right now.”
The Kings have surrendered six or more goals five times already this season, putting them on pace to do so 16 times. That would signify a sharp increase from their nine such defensive debacles last season during a campaign fettered by numerous injuries on their blue line. This year, the Kings have lost only a handful of man games on defense to date.
On the other side of the puck, the Kings haven’t had many passengers aboard their bus. Even slumping winger Adrian Kempe had his first multipoint game Tuesday since Oct. 17 and his first goal since Nov. 14.
The latter date is also when the Kings began a rampage on the power play, an element of their game that’s largely been lacking across coaching tenures and roster compositions. They’ve converted on over 41 percent of their opportunities since then, when last season they barely cracked 16 percent. For the season, the Kings now sit tied for 11th place in conversion rate, though factoring in five goals scored within 10 seconds of a power play ending they would catapult to third.
Yet that productivity on the power play has not coincided with success in other discrete components of the Kings’ game. Since Nov. 14, they have killed just 61 percent of their penalties, the third worst mark in the NHL during the time period in which the Pittsburgh Penguins led the league with a perfect 19-for-19 performance. All the scoring with the extra man still hasn’t yielded a positive goal differential, neither during that stretch nor overall this season, and the Kings continue to keep their heads just above the .500 points percentage water line.
Such push-and-pull dynamics would be welcome for Arizona, which has won just one of its past seven games. With that slump, the Coyotes have sunk to a position where only three NHL teams have fewer points in the standings than they do.
They started the season away from their temporary home, the relatively tiny Mullet Arena in Tempe, for six games, of which they lost four. Their current odyssey began Nov. 5 and won’t end until Dec. 7. After capturing the first three games on the journey, they’ve skidded across their past seven contests, earning just four of a possible 14 points.
The Coyotes have scored the third fewest goals in the NHL, just two more than last-place Chicago. Yet winger Clayton Keller has been none the worse for wear after breaking his leg late last season. He had 63 points in 67 games then, and has continued on a similar pace by notching 21 in 20 this year. Shayne Gostisbehere has led the Coyotes in defensive scoring for the second straight season since arriving in a trade from Philadelphia.
Yet the Arizona defenseman that Kings fans, and those of many other franchises, will be watching closely is Jakob Chychrun. Since recovering fully from offseason wrist and ankle surgeries, the 24-year-old has accumulated three points in four games. He expressed his desire to be traded last season and reconfirmed that request publicly in late September. The left-shooting blue-liner’s combination of youth, mobility, offensive prowess and size make him a coveted commodity among contenders and developing teams alike.
Arizona at Kings
When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday
Where: Crypto.com Arena
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/IHeartRadio