PREVIEW: Special teams improvement key for LA Kings vs. Devils (7p, FOX Sports West)


The Los Angeles Kings and New Jersey Devils met six years ago in the Stanley Cup Finals … with the good guys coming away with the trophy!

Tonight, the squads face off at Staples Center starting at 7p on FOX Sports West.

Both the LA Kings and Devils have struggled this season.

Jeff Garlin heads up Saturday’s ‘Hockey Night in SoCal’ lineup on FOX Sports West

The Kings (10-17-1) have already fired John Stevens as head coach and replaced him with Willie Desjardins, but he hasn’t turned things around either. Stevens was let go on Nov. 4 after the Kings went 4-8-1 to start the season. They’ve gone 6-9-0 under Desjardins and have yet to win three in a row under either coach.

The Devils (9-12-5) are 0-3-3 over the past six games to fall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.

New Jersey coach John Hynes resorted to benching leading scorer Taylor Hall for nearly eight minutes late in the second period of a 5-1 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night after Hall’s turnover in his own zone led to the fourth goal by the Lightning.

“Sometimes, you’ve got to take your lumps and try and come back and play better,” Hall told reporters afterward.

New Jersey entered Wednesday ninth in the NHL with an 82 percent penalty-kill rate, and the Devils will be up against a Los Angeles team that’s 4-for-37 on the power play over its past 14 games.

The Kings have struggled on the penalty kill during that stretch as well, owning a 65.1 percent success rate. They didn’t allow any goals during 5-on-5 play against the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, but gave up a power-play goal and a short-handed one in the 2-1 loss.

“That’s not the area that’s hurting us,” Desjardins said of 5-on-5 play. “It’s the special teams that are hurting us.”

The Kings showed some life in the final minutes against the Coyotes, getting a goal from defenseman Alec Martinez to spoil the shutout, but it was too little too late as they dropped to 0-13-0 this season when trailing at the start of the second period.

“We just got to play a lot more minutes like we did the last five to seven minutes (against Arizona),” Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar said. “You can tell there was desperation there. You know you’ve just got to play like that for 60 minutes.”