The Los Angeles Kings are in survival mode, and if you don’t believe it, ask their head coach.
“I think our mission statement clearly as a group is just stay in the race,” said Darryl Sutter, per LA Kings Insider. “I think we have a really good handle on where we’re at because of our injuries and because of the way the division is. We have a really good handle on it and we’re not going to lose sight of that. We’re not going to get high-low. We’re going to keep our realistic expectations for our group. You can use injuries as an excuse because of the quality of players that we’ve lost, but we won’t use it.”
The latest Kings to fall were Brayden McNabb and Andy Andreoff. They joined Jonathan Quick, Jeff Zatkoff, Marian Gaborik, and Teddy Purcell on the injured list. With the two goalies sidelined, the Kings have been forced to go with Peter Budaj, who hasn’t been an NHL regular since the 2013-14 season.
Budaj, to his credit, has played well, going 4-2-0 with a .916 save percentage. There wasn’t much he could do the last two games, as the Kings got shut out by both the Blues, 1-0, and Blackhawks, 3-0, over the weekend.
Indeed, scoring has been the real challenge for the Kings of late. They remain possession monsters, with the highest Corsi of all 30 teams. But missing a sniper like Gaborik definitely hurts. At five-on-five, their shooting percentage is just 5.8, fifth-lowest in the league. For comparison’s sake, Minnesota leads at 13.5 percent.
Bad luck may be partly to blame for their shooting woes, but regardless of why the pucks aren’t going in, with a 4-5-0 record after nine games, they could really use a few wins, starting tonight at home against Pacific Division rival Anaheim.
“I just think the division’s better, and that’s easy to rationalize that,” said Sutter. “Calgary improved their goaltending situation by 50 percent, and Edmonton, if [Connor McDavid] wouldn’t have gotten hurt last year, they’d have been a much better team, and with the additions they’ve made, hey, it’s legit.”