Amid rise, Kings still looking for Pacific points - LA Kings Insider

“The Central Division is a step up,” Darryl Sutter told reporters last month.

While the Kings have risen to the challenge by posting a 6-1-0 record against the league’s most top-heavy collection of geographically-grouped teams, it does raise the question about the team’s early season struggles to get going versus a group that hasn’t yet proven to be as much of a murderer’s row: the pacific Pacific.

Los Angeles is only 3-4-0 against the Pacific Division in advance of a rivalry game Tuesday night against Vancouver. The Kings fell 3-0 to the Canucks less than one week into the season, their third straight loss before embarking upon their current 14-5-1 stretch. Of those five regulation losses, four were narrow, one-goal defeats. One came against Arizona, their second home loss of the season to the Coyotes.

“I think you look at it in multiple, different ways,” Alec Martinez said. “We obviously didn’t have a good start at home, and this is a home game, we have to turn this home record around. I believe that was our [third] game, against Vancouver, and we weren’t really obviously happy with our starts, so you look at it that way, and you also look at it as a divisional opponent, those are a big two points up for grabs. It’s no secret how tight things are, especially in the West, and especially within the Pacific Division. You might be in one spot, and then you don’t even play that night, and then all of a sudden you’re out of a playoff spot, so yeah, this is a really big two points.”

That one poor stretch of two or three games has such an impact on a team’s playoff footing (if such a thing exists on the cusp of December) isn’t necessarily a bad thing. No team has broken open the Pacific Division, as Anaheim has done for the three previous seasons. When the dust settles on April 9, it’s becoming more likely with every passing day that the divisional race will be the closest it has been since 2011-12, when Phoenix (97 points) edged out San Jose (96 points) and Los Angeles (95 points) on the final Saturday of the regular season.

Which, of course, places a heightened emphasis on the only divisional game the Kings will play until they finish the calendar year with five straight games against Pacific Division clubs.

“There’s not enough difference in the teams,” Sutter said. “There’s so much that’s got to do with schedule or injury or how the team’s playing at that time or what’s going on. It’s not enough of a gap between the teams.”

Vancouver, which plays in Anaheim tonight, is looking to make sure that the gap doesn’t widen. The Canucks’ travails have been emblematic of the lack of gaps in the league standings; though 2-4-2 in their last eight games, they’ve beaten Chicago and Minnesota in that stretch while narrowly losing in a shootout and overtime to Dallas and Montreal, respectively. Vancouver is 0-6 in overtime.

“I think that the two games that we’ve set up, that we’ve talked to the players about, is the Chicago game and this game. They’re both very similar,” Sutter said. “We had a day off, then a practice and a game. That’s how we’ve approached it, and we won’t go past tomorrow on it.”

Alec Martinez, on the team’s 6-1 record against the Central Division:
I mean, I don’t really know what the reasoning for it is, but I do know that our divisional record isn’t good enough, so regardless of what the Central is or not, we have to do a better job of getting wins in divisional games.

Martinez, on the gap between Tuesday’s game and Saturday’s game:
I mean the schedule’s the schedule, we’ve had a couple of days here where we can recover, but I think we had a good practice here today, and we had a good one the day before Chicago. It’s good to get the rest, to let the body recuperate, but I think that it’s important that you’ve got to stay on your game, that when we are at the rink, like today at practice, that you’re focused and you’re playing well, so I guess you can use it to your benefit, in terms of rest, but at the same time you have to make sure that you still have your up-tempo, and that you’re still focused.

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Alec martinez

#27 | 6′ 1″ | 210 lb | Age: 29

Born: July 26, 1987
Birthplace: Rochester Hills, MI, USA
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Martinez was drafted by the LA Kings in the 2007 Draft, while playing for Miami University. He has since become a two-time Stanley Cup champion and the 17th man in Stanley Cup playoff history to score the Cup-winning goal in overtime.

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Anze Kopitar

#11 | 6′ 3″ | 224 lb | Age: 29

Born: August 24, 1987
Birthplace: Jesenice, SVN
Position: C
Handedness: Left

Bio

As the 11th overall pick in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft, Kopitar became the first Slovenian to play in the NHL. Kopitar has spent his entire NHL career with the Kings, and following the 2015–16 season, was named the Kings’ captain. Noted for both his offensive and defensive play, Kopitar was awarded the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the best defensive forward in the NHL in 2016.

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Drew Doughty

#8 | 6′ 1″ | 195 lb | Age: 26

Born: December 8, 1989
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Right

Bio

Bio: Doughty is a Canadian defenceman who was selected second overall by the Kings in the 2008 Draft. Doughty made his NHL debut in 2008 as an 18-year-old and was named to the All-Rookie Team. He is a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Kings, a two-time Olympic gold medallist with the Canadian national team, and a Norris Trophy finalist.

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Tyler Toffoli

#73 | 6′ 1″ | 200 lb | Age: 24

Born: April 24, 1992
Birthplace: Scarborough, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Toffoli is a Canadian professional ice hockey forward, drafted by the Kings in the second round of the 2010 Draft. Toffoli scored his first career NHL goal in his second game in a 4–0 victory over the Phoenix Coyotes in 2013. He was also named the 2012–13 AHL All-Rookie Team.
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Jeff Carter

#77 | 6′ 4″ | 215 lb | Age: 31

Born: January 1, 1985
Birthplace: London, ON, CAN
Position: C
Handedness: Right

Bio

Carter began his hockey career playing in the Ontario Hockey League in Canada before joining the AHL and playing for the Philadelphia Flyers. He was then traded to the Colombus Blue jackets before joining the LA Kings in 2012, where he has since won two Stanley Cups with the Kings.

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Jonathan Quick

#32 | 6′ 1″ | 218 lb | Age: 30

Born: January 21, 1986
Birthplace: Milford, CT, USA
Position: G
Handedness: Left

Bio

Bio: Quick is the current goaltender for the LA Kings and was selected by Los Angeles at the 2005 NHL Entry Draft. Previously, Quick was a silver medalist with USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics. He’s won two Stanley Cup championships with the Kings, along with being the most recent goaltender to be awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the 2012 Stanley Cup playoffs.

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