Kings need consistent scoring balance
Lesson of the day: scoring balance.
Heading into Sunday’s action, the Chicago Blackhawks had eight players with five or more goals, and the surging Ducks possess even more scoring depth with 11 players with five or more goals.
The Kings? They have four players with five or more, including Jeff Carter’s 17 goals, tied for second in the league behind Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos.
Carter still accounts for 25 percent of the Kings’ goals, but Saturday may have represented a significant turning point as goals were scored by six Kings in their 6-2 win against the Calgary Flames.
That hadn’t happened this season. On Tuesday, they scored six goals against St. Louis, but fast-improving rookie defenseman Jake Muzzin had two and added an assist. Scoring Saturday for the Kings were Carter, Muzzin, Trevor Lewis, Justin Williams (who added two assists), Anze Kopitar and Colin Fraser. Defenseman Slava Voynov had three assists, tying a career high.
They’ll need more of that balance to be a consistently good team in the second half of the season. The second game of this mini-series against the Flames is Monday night at Staples Center, Game No. 24 for both teams, representing the halfway point of this lockout-shortened season.
“We’re still trying to play a complete game,” said Kings Coach Darryl Sutter. “Coming off a game [Thursday] where we didn’t and the [Blues] game prior to that, we had to score five goals in the third period, which you’re not going to do very often or ever again.
“Got a lot of work to do with guys, in terms of getting their individual games where they have to be for us to be successful.”
The Kings have won eight of their last 10 games and 10 of their last 13. Carter has 13 goals in his last 13 games. Voynov has 16 points in 23 games, closing in on equaling his total output last season as a rookie (20 points in 54 games).
The only Kings forwards held without a point Saturday were Kyle Clifford, Jarret Stoll, Dwight King and Mike Richards, though Richards had four shots on goal and set the early tone when his shot from the red line in the opening minute beat goalie Miikka Kiprusoff and glanced off the left post.
Richards left the game in the second period after a hit from the Flames’ Tim Jackman but returned for the third. Afterward, Richards, who has a history of concussions, said he was fine.
Kiprusoff was pulled after allowing Fraser’s goal, at 8:22 of the third period, giving up six goals on 22 shots. Joey MacDonald finished up and Flames Coach Bob Hartley said he was not sure whether he would come back with Kiprusoff in Monday’s game.
Still, if Richards has any lingering issues, there will be another option. Prospect and gifted goal-scorer Tyler Toffoli, who had 28 goals and 48 points in 55 games this season in the minors in Manchester, N.H., was recalled Sunday and was scheduled to fly to Los Angeles on Sunday night to join the Kings.
Toffoli, who turns 21 in April, was a second-round draft choice by the Kings in 2010. Kings executives have spoken highly of Toffoli’s progress, especially in recent weeks. If Richards misses any amount of time, Toffoli could step in on Carter’s line, for instance.