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31 in 31

Three questions facing Los Angeles Kings

Scoring, defense, goalie Quick's health among concerns

by Brett Amadon / NHL.com Staff Writer

NHL.com is providing in-depth analysis for each of its 31 teams throughout August. Today, three important questions facing the Los Angeles Kings.

 

[Kings 31 IN 31: Season preview | Top prospects | Fantasy breakdown | Behind the Numbers]

 

1. Can they score more?

The Los Angeles Kings scored the second-fewest goals in the NHL (199); only the Anaheim Ducks scored fewer (196). Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown led Los Angeles with 22 goals each, second fewest among NHL team leaders ahead of Brad Richardson and Alex Galchenyuk of the Arizona Coyotes (19). The power play ranked 27th (15.8 percent), and the Kings averaged 28.8 shots per game, tied with the New York Islanders for the second-fewest in the NHL, ahead of the Ducks (27.7).

The Kings need their top players to step up, including Ilya Kovalchuk, who scored 16 goals in his first season in Los Angeles, and Tyler Toffoli, whose shooting percentage of 5.8 percent was the worst among NHL forwards with at least 175 shots on goal.

"I think the players we have right now are still good enough to score more goals like they did in the past," Kings assistant Marco Sturm said. "From talking to [coach Todd McLellan], he will definitely take more time in practice on the power play, so I can see us moving forward scoring more goals, especially on special teams."

Video: 31 in 31: Los Angeles Kings 2019-20 season preview

 

2. Can they turn it around defensively?

Usually the Kings' strength, they struggled in their own end last season, finishing 22nd in the NHL at 3.16 goals-against per game, their worst average since 2007-08 (3.21), and 29th on the penalty kill at 76.5 percent, their worst since 1989-90 (75.9 percent).

The Kings have veteran defensemen Drew Doughty, Derek Forbort and Alec Martinez, but after buying out Dion Phaneuf and trading Oscar Fantenberg (Calgary Flames) and Jake Muzzin (Toronto Maple Leafs) last season, Los Angeles will need young defensemen such as Sean Walker, 24, and Matt Roy, 24, to hasten their development.

"The start was not the way we wanted (last season)," Sturm said. "And if that happens, like Forbort said, guys grip a little bit harder, guys get frustrated and all of a sudden during the season … things kind of snowballed a little bit.

"This was kind of a new situation for our team and our players, and that's why I really believe the upcoming season guys will be more prepared and we'll have no excuses."

 

3. Can Jonathan Quick stay healthy?

Quick had his worst full NHL season -- 3.38 goals-against average, .888 save percentage -- but questions heading into the season have more to do with his health than his play. The 33-year-old missed an extended period of time last season because of surgery on a torn meniscus, two years removed from when he played 17 games because of a nonsurgical procedure for a lower-body injury. That injury occurred in the same area as a strained groin that kept him out for almost two months in 2013-14.

Although Quick might not be a goalie who can start 60-plus games in a season anymore, the Kings don't need him to be. Jack Campbell (2.30 GAA, .928 save percentage last season) proved he is more than capable as the backup, so if Quick can stay healthy, with a lightened workload, he could return to his form from 2017-18, when the Kings won the William M. Jennings Trophy, awarded to the goalie(s) on the team with the fewest goals allowed during the regular season.

"He can do it, for sure," forward Alex Iafallo said. "We trust in him and he trusts in us, and if we all do our job, it makes everything easier. He's an unbelievable goalie."

Video: Top 10 saves of 2018-19: Quick

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