Maintaining penalty kill a top priority

An eight-day All-Star break is a natural time for a coaching staff to evaluate and identify strengths and areas of needed improvement. For the Kings, there’s one obvious area — scoring — but that’s not the only aspect of the game to receive attention. If the Kings are to enjoy success in the final 32 games, they will have to maintain their defensive strength, and they can’t slip on the penalty kill. The Kings allowed at least one power-play goal in each of the last seven games before the break, but they’re still ranked fifth in penalty-kill percentage. A big part of the reason for the penalty-kill wobble, as noted here at various times in the past couple weeks, has been Darryl Sutter’s decision to use more players on the penalty-kill units in order to keep certain players fresher for 5-on-5 play. Sutter addressed that today, as well as the penalty kill and other areas in which he believes the Kings must improve…

SUTTER: “I think two or three areas are important. I think that is one of them. I think that our penalty-killing has dropped off a little. I think, with some of our forwards, I’ve used more guys since i came on, and some of our guys have lost their detail in it and we have to get it back. We’ve been trying to reinforce that with them. I want our power play to continue to work at getting opportunities, because of those percentages. I think both of them, combined together, tie into penalties. I think we were either first or second in the league in drawing penalties, which is a really good thing. In terms of goals for, we’re at 15th in the league on the power play, so we want to continue to move, from 15th into that next group. That’s our goal.

“Same with the penalty killing. We’ve taken three or four penalties that we’ve gotten scored on in the last six or seven games, that are not acceptable penalties. They’re line-change penalties or they’re penalties in the offensive zone. You don’t have to take them. So we have to cut that out, and that should help us also. So I think, overall, I know everybody talks about our goal scoring, but quite honestly the games, lately, that we’ve scored three or four goals in — we’ve done it five of the last seven or eight games — we win. And we were emotionally invested in those games, so that’s what I’m more concerned about.’’

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