Kings need to improve goal scoring

As expected, the Kings made a big move for a forward last week, when they acquired Jeff Carter from Columbus. At this point in the season, though, the Kings hoped to be dealing from a position of strength.

Instead, the Kings’ move seemed like a last-ditch effort to generate some offense.

The Kings entered Tuesday’s game — a 4-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild — with the lowest goals-per-game total in the NHL, and their group of top-six forwards has been particularly ineffective.

It’s been more than 20 years since the lowest-scoring team in the regular season made the playoffs, and right now, the Kings find themselves outside the top eight in the conference with 18 games remaining, including a meeting with the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

Thus the need to make a move. Carter has yet to record a point in his three games with the Kings, and Los Angeles has scored a total of nine goals since making the move, with a 2-1-0 record. Next up are the Anaheim Ducks on Saturday.

“You’d like to make this deal from where you projected you were,” general manager Dean Lombardi said. “You thought you were short in this area, but you didn’t think you were 30th in the league. I think that’s the frustrating part for all of us, how this has snowballed to, whoa…

“If we’re 15th or 20th in the league, where I kind of projected offensively, I’m still looking for this deal. But I don’t like the fact that the projection is off, in where we should be starting this deal from. Part of that, again, I think is the way our secondary scoring dried up, which would take the heat off our top guys. That needs to be better. That’s the only troubling thing.”

NOTES, QUOTES

   –Jeff Carter has had to make a handful of adjustments since being traded from Columbus to the Kings last week. New team, new coach, new teammates and even a new position, as Carter has moved from center to right wing. Carter is a natural center, but the Kings have Anze Kopitar, Mike Richards and Jarret Stoll lined up at center, plus the Kings want to reunite Carter and Richards, who were teammates in Philadelphia until last summer. Carter said he doesn’t mind the position switch.

“I don’t think it makes much of a difference. With Mike and I, basically whoever is back first is going to go low. I’ve played a whole year on wing last year, so I’m familiar with it now. It’s not an issue at all.”
   –Have the Kings found their scoring touch in the first period? In their first 59 games of this season, the Kings scored a total of only 25 first-period goals. The Kings scored three first-period goals Tuesday against Minnesota — on eight shots on goal — and now have scored a total of eight first-period goals in their last five games.

Early leads are big for the Kings. This season, they have a 22-4-6 record when they score the game’s first goal, and a 13-1-2 record when they lead after the first period.

QUOTE TO NOTE: “Some nights, you’ve got to battle through that and still come out on top. We’ve got to find ways. Whether things are going our way or not right now, we’ve got to find ways to win games.” — Kings captain Dustin Brown.

ROSTER REPORT
PLAYER NOTES:

   –D Slava Voynov has, so far, done fine in his role as full-time replacement for D Jack Johnson. Voynov will now be asked to log big minutes in the Kings’ second defensive pairing, alongside veteran D Willie Mitchell, after the Kings traded Johnson, Mitchell’s former partner, to the Columbus Blue Jackets for RW Jeff Carter last week. Voynov, a 2008 second-round draft pick, cracked the NHL for the first time this season and has impressed as a solid puck-moving defenseman with an accurate point shot on the power play. “I think that the offense is a given with him,” coach Darryl Sutter said. “He passes the puck well and shoots the puck well and jumps into plays well. I think it’s more about knowing who you’re on the ice against and how you’ve got to defend. That will be the biggest step for him, because he hasn’t done that.”
   –LW Kyle Clifford was a healthy scratch Tuesday for the first time this season. Clifford had played all 63 games this season, but the 21-year-old fourth-line winger had gone through a tough stretch of late, including a pair of game-changing penalties last week in Phoenix and he had a turnover the next night in Colorado that led directly to a first-period goal. The Kings still like the potential of Clifford, a big-bodied, hard-working young winger, but with the team fighting for a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference, Clifford sat out Tuesday in favor of more-experienced LW Brad Richardson, who played on the fourth line.
   –G Jonathan Bernier got a rare start for the Kings. G Jonathan Quick had started 10 consecutive games and 19 of the previous 20 games. Tuesday’s start was only the fourth for Bernier since Darryl Sutter took over as coach in late December, a span of 31 games. Bernier sat and watched the Kings lose to Nashville on Monday — a bit of a surprise, given that Bernier has a 5-1-0 career record against the Predators — but Bernier got the start Tuesday against the Wild in a back-to-back situation, and Bernier made 26 saves for his first shutout of the season.

MEDICAL WATCH:
   –Simon Gagne (concussion) was put on injured reserve on Dec. 28 and is out indefinitely.
   –Scott Parse (hip) was put on injured reserve on Nov. 9 and underwent surgery on Dec. 2. Parse will be out until at least early April and might be out for the season.

GOALTENDERS:
   –Jonathan Bernier
   –Jonathan Quick

DEFENSE PAIRINGS:
   –Rob Scuderi, Drew Doughty
   –Willie Mitchell, Slava Voynov
   –Alec Martinez, Matt Greene

FIRST LINE:
  –LW Dustin Brown, C Anze Kopitar, RW Justin Williams

SECOND LINE:
   –LW Dwight King, C Mike Richards, RW Jeff Carter

THIRD LINE:
   –LW Dustin Penner, C Jarret Stoll, RW Trevor Lewis

FOURTH LINE:
   –LW Brad Richardson, C Colin Fraser, RW Jordan Nolan