From a production standpoint, there have been positive developments amongst the Kings’ depth forwards. Nick Shore has been a terror in the faceoff circle, using a 72-for-113 stretch to boost his seasonal percentage to 54.2, which is best amongst L.A. faceoff regulars. Kyle Clifford set a new career-high with his 15th point of the season against Edmonton on Thursday night. Jordan Nolan, who scored his fifth goal of the season against the Oilers, has averaged one goal every nine games since he was inserted into the lineup on January 10. He hasn’t left the lineup since.
“When you’re playing every game it’s a lot easier than when you’re coming in and having to prove yourself every game and getting nervous about being a healthy scratch,” Nolan said. “I think just coming in and playing more relaxed and comfortable within yourself, you start to make more plays here and there and you just feel like you’re getting confidence from the coaches.”
His goal against the Oilers encapsulated much of what he’s shown through the progression of his 36 straight games in the lineup. He lowered a shoulder and found leverage between the puck and defender Martin Marincin while bringing the puck from behind the goal line to the crease and stuffing it past Ben Scrivens while falling to the ice.
“Cliffy threw it down the wall and I thought I had a step on the guy and I saw Shoresie kind of heading to the back of the net which kind of pulled their other D-man away from the net. I thought I had a little lane, so I might as well drive it.”
He certainly did. The play developed after Clifford had pounced on a turnover, leading to the offensive zone opportunities.
“These guys have a great opportunity, and they’re doing what they need to do with it,” Assistant Coach Davis Payne said. “They need to provide us with good minutes and they need to push our game into the offensive zone. They need to make it hard on our opponent, and they have to be part of that straight ahead game that’s most successful for us. They’re not playing any different than what we ask anybody else, but we are asking them to maximize exactly how good they are at it.”
Nolan confirmed that the regular playing time has had a positive impact on his confidence.
“Definitely when you’re not in the lineup and you’re a healthy scratch and you’re in and out at the start of the season, you’re obviously not going to feel too good about yourself. But you keep working and the opportunity arose for me when Pears was hurt there, so I got to get back in the lineup and play a lot of games. So, definitely my confidence is going up.”
The goal that Nolan scored is representative of his recent ability to maximize his skill set, forecheck, and play an up-tempo north-south game.
“Well, we need that all year,” Payne said. “You need four lines playing the right way, you need four lines chipping in. They’re doing so lately, and that’s good for our team. That’s what we need.”
Davis Payne, on Nick Shore’s faceoff success:
It allows us to have possession. It allows us to push our game to the right areas of the ice. That’s critical. You’re either going to play an up and down game, or we’re going to play in one end or the other. We’d like to play in their end, and these guys are starting with the pucks on faceoffs and making sure they are forechecking together. They have the potential to not only bring energy, but produce. That’s critical. This time of year, everybody’s chipping in.
Jordan Nolan, on whether he is happy with where his game is:
Yeah, I’m feeling good. The fourth line has been off and on here and there. But I thought we played well last night, so keep it going to the next game. And for myself, just keeping things simple and taking pucks to the net and trying to play physical.
Nolan, on whether the team relies on prior playoff pushes:
I think so. We’re kind of in the same situation. We’re kind of fighting to get in the playoffs right now and we’re starting to find our groove I think. And like you said, we have a pretty deep team, a confident team and a team full of leaders. We’ve just got to find a way to get in and we can go from there.
Nolan, on whether the team’s upward late season trends:
Yeah, there’s always a couple moving pieces during the year – guys are getting hurt, guys are moving up and down the lineup. So hopefully we can keep the fourth line the same and keep going. I think we’re playing well. We’re playing physical. We’re getting goals here and there, so if we could just keep it going in the playoffs it’s going to be a special year hopefully.
Nolan, on how much of a carry over there can be from the last game:
Probably a little bit, but I think we’re taking it game-by-game right now. We’re trying to solidify our game and get more confident and play the right way. Colorado is another skilled team. So if we play into their hands, we’ll probably lose. If we play our Kings hockey – big, strong, physical and move the puck forward – we’ll probably get the win.