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.” Kings are trying to rise in the crowded Pacific Division starting with Ducks game – Orange County Register

Russell Falcon

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