November 8: Defensive shooting, scoring needs a big spike; lineups - LA Kings Insider

INSIDERS. A happy Thursday afternoon to you. The LA Kings took the Toyota Sports Center ice shortly before 10:00 a.m. and did not tip their hand towards any lineup changes. Expect the following alignment for tonight’s game against Minnesota (7:30 p.m. / FOX Sports West / FOX Sports app / LA Kings Audio Network):

Iafallo-Kopitar-Brown
Kovalchuk-Carter-Toffoli
Pearson-Kempe-Luff
Clifford-Thompson-Lewis

Phaneuf-Doughty
Muzzin-Martinez
Forbort-Fantenberg

Notes!

–The vitals: Jack Campbell left the ice first and will be expected to draw the start versus the Wild. His lone career start against Minnesota occurred two weeks ago, when he stopped 22 of 24 shots in a 4-1 loss at Xcel Energy Center. Paul LaDue, Michael Amadio and Gabe Vilardi remained on the ice for extra work with Peter Budaj, so they’re not expected to play tonight. The Kings are 29-20-14 all-time against the Wild, with 12 of the last 27 games extending to overtime or a shootout.

–Their vitals: Per Michael Russo of The Athletic, Minnesota will start “the taller one” in goal. We’re going out on a limb and assuming that’s 6-foot-6 Devan Dubnyk and not 6-foot Alex Stalock. Come to think of it, we can’t really rule out a trade for Ben Bishop at this point. WHAT ARE YOU HIDING, GABBY? Dubnyk is 8-5-2 in his career against Los Angeles with a 2.42 goals-against average and a .924 save percentage. Eric Staal should return to the lineup after missing the Wild’s 4-3 loss at San Jose due to illness, though Matt Hendricks isn’t expected to go. This is the fifth of a franchise record seven straight road games for the Wild, who will continue their trip in Anaheim on Friday and St. Louis on Sunday. They’re 7-2-0 in their last nine and are tied for third in the league with 14 points since October 16.

“They’re a good team. They have lots of tempo in their game,” Willie Desjardins said. “I think they’ve got some forwards that can move. They’re heavy, their back end, it’s mobile. They get a lot of point production out of their back end. I think they’re a team that you have to be really ready. They give you nothing. Like, they’re a good defensive team and they can strike quickly offensively.”

–The Kings’ game has been rounding into order, but there are still plenty of areas that’ll need to be addressed if they’re to generate any success this season. One of those areas is in defensive scoring, which showed good life in Darryl Sutter’s final season and John Stevens’ full season as head coach. In 2016-17, the Kings tied for eighth in goals by defensemen; in 2017-18, they tied for 11th after floating near the top of the league through the first two-thirds of the season. It’s nice to have the Drew Doughty Lamborghini in the garage.

This season, Los Angeles is tied for 28th in goals by defensemen. The only defensemen with goals are Paul LaDue, Drew Doughty and Alec Martinez. Each has one.

“I know. We’ve got to get going,” Jake Muzzin said. I think our shot totals are down as well.”

They are. Muzzin’s 3.15 individual 5×5 shots per 60 minutes (3.15) are the lowest of his career. So are Derek Forbort’s (1.44) and Alec Martinez’s (2.94). Dion Phaneuf’s 5×5 Sh/60 are the second-lowest of his career (3.78), as are Drew Doughty’s (2.88).

This is still based on a small sample size – and one weighed heavily by a dreadful start in a number of situations, offensively and defensively.

“The first few games, we weren’t really generating a lot. No zone time, and either you get a zone time shot or an off-the-rush shot, and we weren’t really doing any of that,” Muzzin said. “The last few games I thought we’ve done a better job at doing that. I think another factor is we have one D on the power play at the start, so that takes a guy off there, if you’re looking at numbers or what-have-you. But we definitely have to shoot the puck more, get more pucks to the net from the point, whether that be in the zone or on the rush – fourth man on the rush.”

That should happen naturally. The power play has goals in four straight games, and with Dustin Brown again healthy and screening goalies, there should be an environment in which more seeing-eye shots find the net.

Also, like many NHL teams, the Kings are looking to deploy a less static attack under Willie Desjardins, sending additional numbers up into the rush.

“I want them to jump in the play every time, and then if it’s not there, they’ve got to come out,” Desjardins said. “But they always have to start to try to go with the rush. If there’s nothing there, then come out of the rush. But make sure you’re always ready to start.”

Alec Martinez is a defenseman who is confident at jumping into the play, and after he received a pass from Trevor Lewis, fed Kyle Clifford for a high-speed, contested break rush goal against Anaheim on Tuesday.

“That’s the activation that we’re talking about,” Muzzin said. “Filling lanes, jumping when there’s an opportunity. That was a great play.”

This will be an interesting trend to follow over the course of the season. Last year, the Kings spoke about getting numbers into the rush, and for the large part did so through the first half of the season. But over the second half of the year, and clearly this season, the secondary offense that can offset some of the top players’ scoring burden has fizzled.

Given the brewing circumstances – an improving power play, Dustin Brown’s net-front ability, a coach that wants to activate defensemen and a clear focus to get more pucks to the net – don’t be surprised to see Los Angeles build on its total tonight.

“I think it’ll start coming around,” Muzzin said. “Our whole team, our goals were down in the first six, seven games, anyways. It’s all reflective of how the team’s going, I think.”

–Tonight’s officials are referees Brian Pochmara and Ian Walsh and linesmen Bryan Pancich and Brian Murphy. Brian, Bryan, Bryon. Shelby Tweten will sing the national anthem. More to come shortly. Let’s talk soon, Insiders.

Julian Avram/Icon Sportswire

–Lead photo via Adam Pantozzi/NHLI

Jake Muzzin

#6 | 6′ 3″ | 216 lb | Age: 27

Born: Feb 21, 1989
Birthplace: Woodstock, ON, CAN
Position: D
Handedness: Left

Bio

Muzzin was drafted in 2007 by the Pittsburgh Penguins, before signing to the Kings in 2010. He has since become the first Woodstock, Ontario professional athlete to win a major sports trophy.
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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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