EL SEGUNDO, Calif. – One of the goals that Darryl Sutter set upon his hiring as coach of the Los Angeles Kings was to improve at home.
The Kings were 8-9-1 at home before Sutter was hired Dec.20, and they are 3-0-1 under his watch.
Sutter said part of the reason for their home struggles have to do with their game-day routine. The Kings are among the minority of teams that do not practice at their game venue.
L.A. has a practice facility in the South Bay, where most players live. Staples Center is about 35-40 minutes away.
“It’s a big adjustment for young players, quite honest, playing in this environment,” Sutter said. “A big part of it is managing game day. It’s simple. It’s a different routine than 95 percent of NHL teams. They don’t practice game day at the big rink. It has everything to do with what’s going on. It’s a big adjustment – guaranteed. You have only so much control over them in terms of getting them ready. So you have to put a little bit more responsibility on the player.”
Because of this, Sutter has emphasized taking advantage of this five game home stand, which continues Thursday against Phoenix. L.A. then plays nine of its next 14 games on the road.
“To be quite honest, before you can be a consistent good road team for over a period of time you need to be able to take what you do well at home with confidence on the road,” Sutter said. “It’s almost double the responsibility, the accountability on the players’ part which we have as a coaching staff, do a better job helping them.”
Voynov still out: Defenseman Slava Voynov will miss a second game because of an upper-body injury but he is skating.
“He was out there flying,” Sutter said. “He’s feeling better every day. The next step is contact. If he’s pain-free today, hopefully we can take the next step tomorrow.”
Joked Sutter, “He was wearing new skates so his feet hurt. So it’s a lower-body injury.”
Voynov’s absence means another start for Alec Martinez, who otherwise has been scratched under Sutter.
Martinez was a regular under former coach Terry Murray, but Sutter obviously has other plans. It didn’t help that an upper-body injury kept him out for 10 games earlier this season.
“It’s not an easy situation coming into a new job halfway into the season,” Martinez said of Sutter.
“It’s been, not a whirlwind, but he’s had a lot on his plate and, coming off my injury, I’ve had a lot on my plate. We’ve had some communications but I’m just trying to bring my game and help the team win.”
Sutter’s son recalled: Sutter was informed by a reporter that his son, Brett, was about to be recalled up to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Darryl said he talked to Brett on Wednesday but it in general they don’t discuss hockey.
“I’m his dad,” Darryl said. “That’s more important.”
Smith back: Mike Smith is expected to start in goal. He held the Kings to two goals in each of the October meetings.
Here are the projected lineups:
Mikkel Boeker - Daymond Langkow - Shane Doan
Ray Whitney - Cal O’Reilly - Radim Vrbata
Patrick O'Sullivan - Kyle Chipchura - Lauri Korpikoski
Paul Bissonette - Marc Antoine-Pouliot - Taylor Pyatt
Keith Yandle - David Schlemko
Oliver Ekman-Larsson - Adrian Aucoin
Rostislav Klesla - Michal Rozsival
Mike Richards - Anze Kopitar - Dustin Brown
Dustin Penner - Jarret Stoll - Justin Williams
Brad Richardson - Andrei Loktionov - Trevor Lewis
Kyle Clifford - Colin Fraser - Trent Hunter
Drew Doughty - Rob Scuderi
Jack Johnson - Matt Greene
Willie Mitchell - Alec Martinez