Kings open Canadian trip in Toronto
TORONTO — The Los Angeles Kings will be seeing a lot of Canada in the next few days.
The Kings will play the first four games of a five-game trip against Canadian teams starting Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre.
“It's nice to play four of the Canadian teams,” Kings coach Darryl Sutter said Monday before the team traveled to Toronto. “Counting Ottawa, Ottawa was one of the original teams, too. That gets overlooked. So to play the historic teams is something I look forward to, always playing in those Canadian cities.”
The Kings (6-6-0) next travel to Montreal, Ottawa and Winnipeg before finishing the trip in Colorado.
“All those teams have (good players),” Sutter said. “At the top end of the draft they've added lottery players, so they're all looked on or should be as good teams because of the skill sets that those kids bring.”
The Kings will face a young Maple Leafs team that plays well at home, is growing in confidence and has won three games in a row.
The Kings have won two games in a row, including a 5-0 verdict over the Calgary Flames on Saturday in Los Angeles.
“Obviously, L.A.'s plan is to wear you down and make you make mistakes,” Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said Monday. “We have to do the same to them.”
The Maple Leafs (5-4-3) defeated the Vancouver Canucks Saturday in a fight-filled game that could be looked at as a team-building victory.
“It's good for our group,” Babcock said. “We're 4-1 at home and want to be really good at home and get going better on the road. I thought our team played well last game. We didn't give up very much. We were able to win a game without our goalie (Frederik Andersen) being the first star, which is nice. We're not against Andy being first star but we don't need it every night. But I think it all just leads to confidence.”
Improvement in goaltending has given the Kings a boost.
Peter Budaj made 24 saves for his first NHL shutout since Oct. 28, 2013, in the win over the Flames at Staples Center.
“He's given us a chance to win, and that's what we're looking for,” Sutter said. “We're not asking for Jonathan Quick. It's like talking about a player coming into the lineup for an injury. That's exactly what he did. Give him the opportunity, give it back, that's all. Our first three games, for the lack of a better word, our first three games was awful goaltending. Since then, our goaltending's been good enough to give us a chance to win. The first three games it wasn't that.”
Quick suffered a groin injury in the first period of the Kings' first game of the season Oct. 12 and is not expected to return until January.
Budaj has made nine consecutive starts and has a 6-3-0 record, a 2.06 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
Maple Leafs center Nazem Kadri escaped further penalty from the league after his blindside hit on Vancouver's Daniel Sedin, who was taking the shot that resulted in the Canucks' third goal of the game on Saturday. After the third-period hit, there were several fights for the remainder of the game. Kadri, who feels the check was shoulder to shoulder, received a five-minute charging penalty and a game misconduct as a result of the hit as well as a fighting major when Vancouver's Jannik Hansen went after him as Sedin went down.