Today is the ninth day of the Kings’ seven-game, 12-day trip, a journey through the Eastern and Central time zones that features two separate back-to-back sets. It’s during a compacted portion of the schedule that followed a more relaxed, 10-games-in-27-days swath that now seems like ages ago.
Per the new CBA, teams have four recovery days per month, and yesterday was one of those days. Several players spent the day seeing Rogue One, a good portion spent it accomplishing some Christmas shopping, and some chose to simply sleep in and keep their mind free of hockey activities during a challenging portion of the schedule.
24 hours later, the focus is clearly on a Blue Jackets team that enters tonight’s game having won nine in a row and boasting a league-best .759 points percentage. Columbus also had a day away from hockey activities yesterday and took the ice for a rare morning skate under John Tortorella, who has more or less done away with their early sessions this season.
Earlier today, I spoke with Drew Doughty and Jordan Nolan about the rhythm of the road trip and how they’ll look to counter a Blue Jackets power play that leads the league with a 27.7% power play percentage (and a 32.5% rate at home).
Drew Doughty, on whether it was good to have a day off in the middle a long trip:
Yeah, it was nice. It’s always nice to have days off just to relax. You know, go watch a movie, walk around the mall, whatever it may be, just kind of veg out, I guess you could say. I kind of like that this road trip is just kind of game after game – that makes the road trip not feel as long when you’re having a bunch of days on the road. It was good to have that one day off though because I know all the boys are excited to get back in to playing some games here and we’ve got a big one tonight.
Doughty, on what he’s liked about the road trip so far, and what the Kings can improve on:
Obviously we didn’t like the first game in Buffalo but the last three I think we’ve played pretty well. We’ve obviously got to start scoring some more goals because Buds and Zatz have been playing great for us, only letting one goal in a game or whatever it has been throughout this trip so it comes down to us going to those dirty areas to score more goals. Get in front of the net, not letting the goalie see pucks and putting in some ugly goals, but whether it’s a rebound or a tip, we need to get back to doing more of that and if we do that we have a lot of faith in our defensive game as a team and we should win games that way.
Doughty, on whether he’s satisfied with the team’s play and structure on the trip:
Yeah, I think we’re pretty happy. You know obviously in Boston there were some things we could have done more to win the game and in Pittsburgh, obviously we took way too many penalties which kind of caused them to dominate the first two periods but yeah, we just kind of got to keep doing the things that we were doing well and we know that are working and improve on those little things, and a lot of it just comes down to competing. If every single guy in this room gets that little much better and get that much more out of every single guy then we’re going to become that much better as a team. That’s what we’re looking for tonight, is for everyone to individually step up their game and we’ll come together as a team and hopefully win the hockey game.
Doughty, on facing Columbus’ power play, which is the best in the league:
They’ve got a good power play. You know, they’ve got a young guy obviously up top in the number 8 (Zach Werenski) there who’s a pretty good player, he’s good at wristing pucks through. And then they have a bunch of other guys, they always have the one guy going backdoor and they have a good slot presence always so we know exactly what they’re trying to do. We watched a lot of video on them and when it comes to penalty kill it just comes down to competing and blocking shots, getting pucks all the way down the ice and making big plays at big times and you know the goalie is coming to come up with a big save once in a while.
Jordan Nolan, on what he’s liked and disliked about the road trip so far:
I mean, we’ve been OK. We know we can be a lot better. I think it’s kind of nice coming here for Columbus and we had the day off. One of the best teams in the league, so it should get us going and always a good place to start to get our game back to where it needs to be.
Nolan, on whether the day off helps break the road trip into two segments:
A little bit. We knew the first few games were going to be tough, it’s a lot of games. These next few, you know, we’ve got some tough teams. They play a little different than those other teams so I think as long as we get our game going tonight we should be happy with the rest of our trip, I think.
Nolan, on his line’s performance in the game against Boston:
Yeah I thought our line generated some good offensive chances in the first period. I think that obviously comes with playing physical and playing quick and kind of letting their team know we’re going to hang on to pucks down low, we’re going to make plays and we’re also going to finish our checks, so I think if we do that night in, night out we should be a pretty successful line.