Milan Lucic is set to face off against his former team for the first time, but the forward's homecoming is secondary to some on-ice concerns right now for the Los Angeles.
The Kings' struggles lately have mostly been in the defensive zone, something they'll try to correct as they start a season-high seven-game road trip Tuesday night against the Boston Bruins.
Lucic, who's been limited to two goals in his last 24 games, played his first eight seasons in Boston and won the 2011 Stanley Cup before being traded June 26 after the Bruins missed the playoffs for the first time in his career. He wrote a letter to the city in The Players' Tribune published Monday, then spoke warmly of his former home to the Kings' official website.
“It's pretty cool,” Lucic said. “Back in the snow, hockey weather. But it's a good feeling to be able to go back and finally play against a team that I played for (over) the last eight years, and I'm looking forward to what it's going to be like.”
A little improvement figures to be necessary to leave with two points. First-place Los Angeles (31-17-3) has given up 18 goals over a 2-4-0 span, including a 4-2 home loss to Anaheim on Thursday.
“The whole game wasn't the way we wanted, and it's not the way we drew it up,” said Tyler Toffoli, who scored his 23rd goal to match his career high established last season. “We've got to get better defensively.”
Boston (28-18-6) strung together consecutive wins in a home-and-home set against Buffalo with stronger defensive efforts, including Saturday's 2-1 home overtime win. Brad Marchand scored on a penalty shot midway through the extra period, giving the forward nine goals in his last nine games.
“When you're feeling good and confident, you seem to bear down in situations like that,” said Marchand, who has also scored seven goals in his last six against Los Angeles.
It could fall on him to spark a power play that's gone 2 for 29 in the last 10 games, though the penalty kill has more than canceled that out by going 71 for 76 in the past 26.
Boston is playing its last of six of eight at home before heading out on a season-high six-game trip. It last won consecutive home games Dec. 16 and 20, going 4-6-1 since, while Los Angeles has gone 7-2-0 with 3.67 goals per game on the road since the Christmas break. Overall, though, the Bruins are happy with how they've performed in three overtime games since the All-Star break.
“We've gotten five out of six points after the break, so it would be nice to finish strong and get seven out of eight and go on the long road trip,” center David Krejci told the team's official website. “It's going to be a big game for us. (The Kings) have a really good team. They're big and strong. We have to bring our A game.”
Tuukka Rask did that against the Sabres with 37 saves, and he's 2-1-0 with a 1.69 goals-against average and .956 save percentage versus the Kings.
Likely counterpart Jonathan Quick has a 3.45 GAA and .858 save percentage over a 1-4-0 span, and he's also lost his last three in Boston.
The clubs have split four games over the past two seasons, but the Bruins haven't lost in regulation at home to the Kings since 2005-06, going 3-0-3 with three straight victories.