The Kings will run another gauntlet on Saturday when they travel to Vegas to face the Golden Knights for the second time in two weeks.
Since the Kings recorded a rousing 4-2 home win on December 27 to move within three points behind Vegas for first place in the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights have accumulated points in their four straight games, including their current one Three-game winning streak.
The Kings continued to hit with heavyweights, though they’ve since split four games to lose some ground overall.
Most recently, they slipped against the vaunted Boston Bruins, who were passed by the Kings but managed to win through a combination of error exploits and random bounces. They capitalized on overexertion along the wall on a goal, scoring a deflected pass during a power play, tipping a puck after a failed rush and using a confused defense that sold out behind the net rather than protecting the low slot to the net for a late insurance marker .
“Really good teams take advantage of these moments. I think we will. We’re not quite there yet, but we can do it,” said Kings coach Todd McLellan.
When winger Kevin Fiala was asked if Boston’s opportunism and overall dominance could be an example for the Kings this season, Fiala downplayed the rift between his club and the Bruins.
“We’re in the middle of the season and I don’t think there’s any split at all,” Fiala said.
Fiala was named the Kings’ sole representative for the NHL’s All-Star Weekend on Thursday, and he has four points in his last four games going into Saturday’s matchup against Vegas.
“He brings a dynamic that’s a little different than a lot of the ingredients we have on our team. We brought in a number of trustworthy players the year before who were very good and still are,” said McLellan, referring to Viktor Arvidsson, Phillip Danault and Alex Edler. “Kevin is a little bit more of a player and that makes it a little bit different. When he’s out, which is mostly at night, he’s dangerous and we’re lucky to have his offensive instincts, his playmaking skills and his competitiveness.”
Fiala wasn’t the only royal to receive tributes on Thursday. Defenseman Brandt Clarke was graced with a gold medal after supporting Canada’s bid to repeat at the World Junior Championships. Clarke finished seven tournament games with eight points. In the final against the Czech Republic, he provided two assists, including one in extra time in the decisive goal.
“To win a championship under that kind of trial there’s a lot of pressure on these kids in Canada and he was a big part of that,” McLellan said. “We were glued to the TV watching our prospects and other prospects and I couldn’t be happier for him.”
What’s next for Clarke is unclear. McLellan said he would prefer the 19-year-old to have some time to rest, recover and enjoy his achievements but that talks with general manager Rob Blake were also ahead.
For now, the top tier of Kings organization will focus on Vegas, which has returned with a vengeance after its first non-playoff season last year. On the injury front, the Golden Knights had no choice but to improve from last season’s infirmary, but were still missing a number of key players against the Kings last week.
Top center Jack Eichel returned to the lineup Thursday, scoring three points in a crucial win over Pittsburgh. Acorn leads Vegas in both plus-minus and points-per-game scoring, though fellow pivot Chandler Stephenson was the team’s top-grossing producer with 40 points in 41 games.
Winger Jonathan Marchessault (lower body) could also be an option against the Kings on Saturday; he last played on December 21st. Defensemen Shea Theodore (leg) and Zach Whitecloud (knee) are out, and Vegas picked up a couple of fresh injuries on the blue line. Former King Alec Martinez (Foot) has not played since the first half of the game against the Kings on Dec. 27, and Daniil Miranov (Foot) hasn’t seen a change since he blocked a shot in the New Year’s Eve win over the Nashville Predators.
Kings in Vegas
When: Saturday 7 p.m
From where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas
TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeart Radio
https://www.ocregister.com/2023/01/06/kings-continue-challenging-run-in-las-vegas/ Kings continue their challenging run in Las Vegas – Orange County Register