|The Kings kept Sidney Crosby off the board on Thursday.
It's tough to start a season on the penalty kill much worse than the Kings did last month. Practice Report
The Kings allowed seven power-play goals (on only 11 chances) in their first three games, which obviously sunk them to the bottom of the efficiency charts. They're still near the bottom, but there has been an undeniable improvement in the unit's play.
During their current 6-0-2 streak, the Kings have successfully killed 24 of their opponents' 27 power plays. That's leading to a steady improvement in kill percentage (75.4 at the moment) and a slow climb up the efficiency charts (they're now No. 27).
For a team that prided itself on strong penalty killing last season, it's about both pride and success, since teams that are strong on special teams generally find themselves playing hockey, and not golf, beyond mid-April.
"That’s the group taking a lot of pride in what they’re doing," Kings coach Terry Murray said. "Penalty killing is about pride. It’s about hard work. It’s about desperation. You’ve got to sacrifice yourself to block shots and work as a group to keep it nice and compact through the middle of the ice and into your D zone."
Murray also cited the strong play of goalie Jonathan Quick, while veteran defenseman Sean O'Donnell said the key was mostly just about seeking a fresh start.
In the second game of the season, the Kings went 0 for 4 on the penalty kill but shockingly still beat San Jose 6-4. Two nights later, they went 2 for 4 but still beat Minnesota. Those results clearly weren't going to be sustainable without penalty-kill improvement, but the Kings did show immediate improvement.
The Kings allowed seven power-play goals in their first three games. They have now allowed eight power-play goals in their last 13 games.
"At the start of the year, we had some tough breaks," O'Donnell said. "We played a San Jose team that was on fire. Any time a team goes 4 for 4, that’s going to crush your penalty killing. We’ve been behind the 8-ball ever since then. I would say, since that game, we’re probably in the low 80s somewhere (percentage-wise), certainly not what we want to do but I think we kind of have to forget about those first three or four games and worry about the last eight or 10.
"I think we were in decent position, but we just weren’t mentally there. We were in the right position but our stick wasn’t on the ice, or our stick was here instead of being here. Just little tweaks, and I think we’ve done a good job with attention to detail, and Quick has made some great saves for us too."
Peter Harrold, often described as the Kings' "utility player," went back to practicing with the defensemen on Friday. Harrold, a healthy scratch for the previous two games, provided a defensive partner for Randy Jones, who was acquired off waivers last week.
Otherwise, all players skated with the same lines and pairings that they played with on Thursday, and all players participated in practice.
DADS FINISH 2-0
The Kings' "dads' week" officially ended after they attended the Kings' 5-2 victory over Pittsburgh on Thursday night. A group of 15 players' fathers participated and also attended Monday's game at Phoenix, in which the Kings rallied for a victory.
"I was thinking about talking to Dean (Lombardi) about just keeping everybody around for the rest of the year," Murray joked.
"It was a nice event for a couple games, there's no doubt. With the fathers coming in, it's special for the players to go out and play in front of their family. If it becomes an annual event, I think that would be a great thing for the players and for the team."
CROSBY OFF THE BOARD
Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby played his second career game at STAPLES Center on Thursday, but he probably won't look back with fond memories.
Crosby did not record a point and had one shot on goal, one minor penalty and a minus-1 rating, as the Kings kept one of the league's top scorers largely under wraps.
"There was no special strategy," Murray said. "We’re looking at our forecheck game, and a big part of our responsibility is that high third man, is to cover over the center iceman. We ask that against any team that we play, but I think there’s greater awareness when you have the elite player, that Crosby is, out on the ice against you.
"That third guy in the offensive zone, in the middle of the ice, was well taken care of. I thought every one of our forwards, against them, read that the right way."
PLAYERS BUY TICKETS FOR LOCAL NON-PROFITS
All players on the Los Angeles Kings have purchased tickets for every remaining home game during the 2009-10 season and have donated them to the Kings Community Corner, presented by Steiner Brothers Construction, the team announced today. The Kings Care Foundation will then distribute the tickets to selected local non-profit groups, kids and families. Approximately 500 tickets will be purchased by the Kings team for each game...more.