Kings looking forward to Tyler Toffoli’s return to ice vs. Chicago
Marred in their worst slump of the season, the Los Angeles Kings know that Wednesday night’s game could be their best opportunity to snap out of it.
The Chicago Blackhawks might not be the best team in the standings, but having faced them so many times in the playoffs in the last three seasons, the Kings say it doesn’t matter. A win over Chicago could change everything.
"I know that tonight could be a big, big time to kind of turn it around," said defenseman Drew Doughty. "It’s a huge rivalry of ours now. It’s one of these best team in the league and I still think they’re the best team in the league. If we can get a win tonight, that’s really going to turn it around for the rest of our guys and get us on track."
The Kings go into this one three points out of a playoff spot in both the Pacific Division and the Wild Card and it’s the final game at the Staples Center before they leave for five games on the annual Grammy trip. Leaving with two points at home would allow the team to breathe a sigh of relief since the road has not been kind to the team this season.
Last season, the Kings were in a similar slump before the Olympic break but won seven-straight coming out of it. They were just streaky enough to grab a playoff spot, and the rest is history. Based on that history, the team isn’t just hoping for a similar outcome in the rest of the regular season, they’re banking on it.
"I guess I kind of expect it," Doughty said. "We’re looking to obviously do the same thing. We’ve talked about it, we know what we’ve got to do in order to get a playoff spot and be higher up in the playoffs as well. We’ve got a lot of work, we’ve got to win a lot of games but we’re determined to do it and I think we know that we have the right guys in this room that can do it."
The rest of the season begins at 7:30, Wednesday night.
The Kings officially activated Tyler Toffoli again and will get the forward back Wednesday night. Toffoli’s offensive production (12-15=27 points, plus-16 rating) will be welcome, but Darryl Sutter is looking for a little more endurance through the second half from the second line sniper.
"He was aware of his start," Sutter said. "I think he had probably a tougher time through the middle of November and the middle of December and the numbers show that. It’s his first full year in the NHL so he ran out of gas. A lot of young guys did after the long playoffs."
The Real Rivalry
The standard line when the Kings face any opponent that might be considered a rival of sorts is this: "It’s a good story for the media, we’re going to approach it like any other game."
— LA Kings (@LAKings) January 28, 2015
At Wednesday’s morning skate, Alec Martinez delivered the line with the same aplomb that the rest of the team typically reserves for these big games. But Martinez seemed to be in the minority this time. Everyone else agreed that after seeing the Blackhawks in back-to-back Western Conference Finals, it’s only natural that this matchup blossomed into a fierce rivalry.
"That’s just what happens when two teams that are championship teams," Toffoli said. "It’s always fun when both rinks — here and there — are so loud and we’re both playing against each other. It’s just an incredible experience."