Kings are trying to rise in the crowded Pacific Division starting with Ducks game – Orange County Register
The Kings have a chance to catapult themselves into the tight Pacific Division standings during a back-to-back set against two struggling rivals this weekend when they visit the Ducks on Friday before hosting the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday.
Since returning from an extended All-Star hiatus, the Kings, who are a point behind first-seeded Vegas but just a point ahead of fourth-seeded Edmonton in the Pacific, have been productive on the ice and busy in the front office. They won two games by an aggregate score of 11-2 while also signing up-and-coming goaltender Pheonix Copley and premier defender Mikey Anderson for contract extensions.
With those moves – along with the extension of Trevor Moore and his return from injury alongside Arthur Kaliyev and, imminently, Gabe Vilardi – the trade deadline has come more into focus with all eyes on general manager Rob Blake. Although there is widespread speculation that the Kings are the frontrunner for Arizona defenseman Jakob Chychrun and may be exploring other options in defense and scoring, both Blake and coach Todd McLellan have expressed confidence in their existing group. McLellan did so after Saturday’s win over Pittsburgh and Blake reaffirmed the spirit at a fan event on Wednesday night, where he addressed the crowd.
“Getting those injured guys back I think solidifies the forward group and how they fit in there. We probably haven’t really had that since the first few weeks of the season. That’ll be nice to get that going,” Blake told those in attendance. “I think every team always explores all possible options before the deadline and if there is something, one thing has to be clear, it has to improve our team. We’re not taking anything away from this team anymore.”
Blake also joined McLellan, defenseman Sean Durzi and others in a chorus of voices singing the praises of Copley, who struggled in the minors before becoming the NHL’s top goaltender since his recall in early December. Durzi spoke about the attitude that permeated the group while McLellan focused on timely plays, both early in games, like his standout stop against Sidney Crosby during a power play on Saturday, and late, like multiple saves that prompted a comeback -Push by Buffalo on Monday.
“I think he was able to come in and cement that place on the net for us; his win/loss record was really good during that period,” Blake said. “If we just look at our future goalkeeping situation, next year we only had one goalkeeper under contract so stepping in there and signing him gives us that [flexibility] there on the web.”
While Copley’s deal was only a one-year commitment, the Kings tied Anderson for eight more seasons and at a solid annual average of $4.125 million. Anderson was a key figure in the suppression of gunshot attempts, denials of zone entry, and other buzz from the analyst crowd. But his development also coincided with the resurgence of kings, giving him tangible results to complement his outlandish stats.
“He’s risen to become a really capable defender against top and top attacking players in the league. He’s low maintenance, shows up every day, and is a big part of the lead, moving forward with our group as well. We’ve felt that commitment over time,” Blake said, adding that he felt from the start that Anderson had “a captain’s pedigree.”
Next up are the Kings and the Ducks, who have found that no one on their roster has captained ancestry, at least this season. Since Ryan Getzlaf retired in the spring, they’ve rolled three alternate captains and kept the “C” under plastic wrap, much like Arizona did with Chychrun, scratching him until a swap is complete.
The Ducks also haven’t had a season that anyone is willing to take responsibility for: They’re bottom in their division, only two teams in the NHL have lower total points, their sharp minus-92 goal difference is by far the worst lead they’ve had conceded the most goals while scoring the second fewest, and their special teams were atrocious. Their powerplay is the least efficient in the league, and while their penalty is only the fifth-worst, their one-man-less troubles were compounded by the fact that they have the second-most penalties in the NHL and have the second-worst penalty differential.
Arizona has the worst grade after conceding 42 more penalties than they drew. Its constant remodeling might be in better hands with GM Bill Armstrong, but the looks haven’t changed much. Their top scorer, winger Clayton Keller; their No. 1 goalkeeper, Karel Vejmelka; and their best defenseman Chychrun are all in their 20s and have at least two more seasons under contract. Nonetheless, they have been the subject of trade rumours, particularly Chychrun, whose trade request has spanned two campaigns.
The Kings won their only previous clash with the Ducks this season on Dec. 20, 4-1, and parted ways in December’s two matchups with Arizona, winning at home and falling in overtime at the Coyotes’ makeshift Tempe home.
Kings in ducks
When: Friday 6 p.m
Where: Honda Center
TV/Radio: ESPN/iHeart Radio
Arizona at Kings
When: Saturday 7:30 p.m
Where: Crypto.com Arena
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeart Radio
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/02/16/kings-seek-to-make-a-move-up-in-crowded-pacific-division-starting-with-ducks-game/ Kings are trying to rise in the crowded Pacific Division starting with Ducks game – Orange County Register