Far from content, improved Kings face Ducks

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Kings boast a perfect record since returning from their All-Star break yet are keen on improvement when they hit the road to face the Anaheim Ducks on Friday.

With how tight the Pacific Division race has become, with the top four clubs separated by two points and five teams holding playoff positions heading into play Thursday, the Kings are aware of the penalty for overlooking the struggling Ducks.

The Kings will enter Friday’s game after three days of rest, last playing Monday with a convincing 5-2 victory over the visiting Buffalo Sabres.

“We’re happy to put the points in the bank, but I thought the two games (since the break) were opposite of each other, really, when it came to details,” Kings head coach Todd McLellan said. “We got away with a lot of stuff. I know we’re supposed to appreciate and enjoy wins, but I wasn’t overly impressed with our team.

“I thought we did things that we shouldn’t be doing, three offensive-zone penalties, one late in the game to give them a chance to get back in. Turnover after turnover.”

The Kings have just three playoff victories over the last four seasons, but McLellan is determined to set a high standard even as the Kings sport a 5-1-1 mark over their last seven games. His squad did build a 5-0 lead on the Sabres before easing its intensity.

“We were fortunate to get the win, but I know … we’ll clean up a few things,” Kings defenseman Sean Durzi said, according to the Orange County Register. “We’ve got to continue to get better if we want to have a good push here.”

The Ducks, who sit at the bottom of the Pacific Division, are coming off a 7-3 loss to the Sabres on Wednesday. Anaheim led 3-2 in the second period only to watch things fall apart.

The Ducks, who are more than 20 points behind the playoff pace, are on a three-game losing skid when they have been outscored 20-8. Prior to the slide, they had won four of five outings, but have received a dose of reality as better clubs start to elevate their game.

“You see the desperation,” Ducks defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. “I know that’s going to be something that’s hard for us to create when you’re not in the race. But the other side of it too is if we do want to learn and take steps as a team for the future – this is how it goes after the All-Star break. It’s a race to get into the playoffs. Even teams like Boston aren’t letting up because they have a cushion.”

Slow starts have hurt Anaheim’s cause. Continuing a bad trend, the Ducks were outshot 19-3 in the first period against Buffalo, making it impressive they actually held a lead just past the game’s midway point. The Ducks have been outshot 56-16 in the first period of the past three games.

“We have to figure out a way to come out with more energy and better execution than we did,” said Anaheim defenseman Cam Fowler, who scored twice, including the second-period goal that gave his team a brief 3-2 lead. “We just put ourselves behind the eight-ball.”

–Field Level Media

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