The Los Angeles Kings hope a change of coaches will turn around what many expected to be a breakout season.
Darryl Sutter will make his Los Angeles coaching debut Thursday night against the Anaheim Ducks, who have continued to struggle after hiring Bruce Boudreau as their new bench boss last month.
Sutter was introduced as the 24th coach in Kings history Wednesday, taking over for Terry Murray, who was dismissed Dec. 12. Sutter has won 409 games in 12 seasons with Chicago, San Jose and Calgary, and brought the Flames within a win of the Stanley Cup in 2004.
A trendy pick to win its first championship this season after tying a franchise record with 46 wins in each of the last two campaigns, Los Angeles (15-14-4) has been a huge disappointment so far. Though they added Mike Richards, Simon Gagne and Dustin Penner with hopes of a deep playoff run in 2012, the Kings are currently outside the top eight in the Western Conference.
There still may be hope with more than half the season to play. Teams that have been coached by Sutter have gone on to the postseason in 10 of his 12 years.
Defenseman Drew Doughty, who has just 10 points in 28 games since signing a long-term deal following a lengthy holdout, said Sutter may be the voice needed to get the Kings back in the playoff race.
"I heard he's a bit of a yeller and I think that's a good thing. We need someone that's going to push us, to get the best out of us every night, and I think he's going to be a great fit for our team," Doughty told the Kings' official website.
Los Angeles gave interim coach John Stevens a win in his final game, Monday's 3-2 shootout victory in Toronto. Dustin Brown scored in regulation and had the lone goal in the tiebreaker.
While Sutter tries to change the Kings' fortunes, Boudreau has watched southern California's other team continue to play poorly. Anaheim (9-19-5) has dropped five of six to fall to 2-6-1 since Boudreau replaced the fired Randy Carlyle on Nov. 30.
In Dallas on Monday, the Ducks rallied from a three-goal deficit to tie the score in the second period but fell 5-3. Anaheim has surrendered 14 goals while dropping its last three games.
"We make a mistake, it's always in the back of our net," Boudreau said. "It's everybody. It's the coaches. It's all our responsibility. We come out good for short periods of time, then all of a sudden we get out of the game plan. I don't know if the focus is lost, or we get too emotionally involved in something else."
The Ducks have lost a franchise-record 12 consecutive road games - the past six in regulation - with Jonas Hiller and Dan Ellis giving up an average of nearly 3.6 goals. The offense hasn't been much better over that stretch, scoring two goals or less nine times.
Playing at Staples Center, though, may help end that slide. Anaheim has taken five of a possible six points in its last three visits to Los Angeles.
While the Ducks have given up at least one power-play goal in five consecutive games, Los Angeles had gone six straight without scoring one until Brown ended that drought Monday.