EL SEGUNDO, Calif. -- If a loss can be used as a starting point for a team, the Los Angeles Kings can point directly to their Feb. 10 game against the Detroit Red Wings.
Although they gave up the game-winning goal with five seconds remaining, the Kings played their best game to that point and have since won six of seven, allowing seven total goals in that span. They come full circle Wednesday night when Detroit comes to Staples Center.
What changed in that Feb. 10 game? Jarret Stoll said the Kings got back to better puck movement.
“Whether it’s a 5-, 6-, 8-foot pass to score, moving the puck up the ice is really key instead of having the sloppy pass or the sloppy bobbled puck, and then you’re in one in your own zone,” Stoll said. “A team like Detroit – they can sense that, they can feel that. They’re smart at that. We’ve got to make sure we’re sharp moving the puck, supporting each other.”
Coach Darryl Sutter said he doesn’t think it was his team’s performance in that Feb. 10 game but how they responded: a 4-1 win the next night against the St. Louis Blues.
“You won a faceoff in the last few seconds and you still lose the game, on the one faceoff, it can pull your team down,” Sutter said. “So it’s not anything that happened during that game, it’s how we responded the next night in St. Louis. We talked about it after. That’s why, quite honest, a good club, because we’re resilient like that.”
Gagne gone: The trade of Simon Gagne back to the Philadelphia Flyers was felt in the Kings locker room. Not only was he a consummate professional, he had ties to former Flyers teammates Mike Richards and Jeff Carter.
“It’s tough to see him leave,” Richards said. “But I think he’ll do well there. He’s obviously comfortable, and I think he still has a house there too … [Flyers fans] love him. He’s had success there, a lot of years before I was there. They love him. He’ll do well there. For him, he’s probably excited to get there and get started."
Stoll said he spoke with Gagne on Tuesday night and said he sounded positive. Gagne will play Wednesday night for the Flyers.
“That’s great news,” Stoll said. “He wants to be in the lineup. He wants to play. He’s a good pro, he’s a competitive guy. I just wish him all the best. It’s sad not to have him in this locker room anymore."
Muzzin finding his legs: Jake Muzzin was thrown into the fire when half of the Kings’ Cup-winning defense went down, and he initially couldn’t avoid the flames.
Sutter used an expletive then stopped and inserted “road apples” to describe Muzzin’s performance in Feb. 2 game against the Anaheim Ducks. But Muzzin has steadied and Sutter has given him more responsibility, including power-play time.
Muzzin played a season-high 20:53 Monday night, ironically against Anaheim, and scored a with a nice fake-move.
“I feel a lot more confident than before than my previous stint,” Muzzin said. “I got a lot of help from the guys, the coaches. I have to believe and I have to believe in myself and my ability.”
Martinez progressing: Defenseman Alec Martinez has been skating on his own for about a week but appears to be a little ways off from returning from an upper-body injury. He hasn’t taken contact yet and there was no timetable to do so.
“My conditioning feels good,” Martinez said. “It’s just a matter of just feeling comfortable out there and hopefully [I’ll] be back out there.”
Mitchell still out: Defenseman Willie Mitchell continues to rehab his surgically repaired knee and general manager Dean Lombardi said Tuesday that Mitchell seemed to respond well to a therapeutic procedure.
Mitchell had surgery to clean out cartilage in early December and hasn’t been seen much since. Lombardi said the procedure involves platelet-rich plasma injection.
“He did say something fairly positive to our trainer in terms of possibly coming back,” Lombardi said of the procedures. “He’s doing it again now. Again, we’re still kind of in that same holding pattern. That’s the frustrating thing ... there’s really no timetable here.”
Here are the Kings' likely lines for Thursday night:
Dustin Brown – Anze Kopitar – Justin Williams
Trevor Lewis – Mike Richards – Jeff Carter
Dwight King – Jarret Stoll – Dustin Penner
Kyle Clifford – Colin Fraser – Jordan Nolan
Jake Muzzin – Drew Doughty
Rob Scuderi – Slava Voynov
Keaton Ellerby – Davis Drewiske
Bernier was first off the ice at the morning skate. Sutter typically leans heavily on starting goalies but he has said he wants both Bernier and Quick to get hot, and the condensed schedule facilitates a more-balanced rotation.
Bernier has won his past three starts but is 0-1 with a 4.80 goals-against average in three appearances against Detroit. Quick is 6-10 with a 3.15 GAA.