The Los Angeles Kings will always have a special place on Cory Clouston's coaching resume.
|Senators forward Milan Michalek hopes to extend his hot goal-scoring run Thursday night in Los Angeles against the Kings (Photo by Andre Ringuette/NHLI via Getty Images).
It was the Kings who supplied the opposition back on Feb. 3 at Scotiabank Place, when Clouston made his National Hockey League debut behind the Senators bench. But ask the Ottawa head coach about his team's struggles in Los Angeles and he offered the kind of startled response you'd expect from someone who hasn't had a hand in any of it.
"Oh, is that right? Thanks for bringing that up," Clouston said with a laugh when the Senators' all-time 1-9-1 record in Los Angeles was pointed out to him.
If there's a soft touch for the Senators (13-8-4) on this rugged western road trip, it surely isn't the Kings, who have dominated Ottawa teams at the Staples Center and their previous home, the Great Western Forum. The current edition in Los Angeles also happens to be a high-scoring outfit that stands fifth in the Western Conference with a 16-10-2 record.
"Every game is going to be a challenge," said Senators goaltender Brian Elliott, who's likely to make his fifth straight start when the teams meet Thursday night at the Staples Center (10:30 p.m., TSN, Team 1200). "This whole year is compressed and there are going to be challenges with every team. Especially with these western teams … they play a little bit different style than we do."
There is also the matter of snapping a long goal-less drought against the Kings. Los Angeles' 1-0 victory in Clouston's debut extended its shutout string against Ottawa shooters to 133:36. Generating the necessary offence was the theme of the Senators' practice earlier today.
"It’s a tough swing – there are some good teams out here," said Clouston. "But what we have to do is make sure we’re focused. I thought we had a pretty intense practice today. There were some pretty good battles here and that was part of the process of making sure we are prepared for tomorrow.
"Every game is going to be a challenge. This whole year is compressed and there are going to be challenges with every team. Especially with these western teams ... they play a little bit different style than we do." - Brian Elliott"We’ve got to make sure we’re ready to battle and that we’re not just going out there and thinking things are going to turn out for us. We’ve got to make them work for us."
One guy definitely subscribing to that theory is red-hot forward Milan Michalek, who pushed his season goal total to 15 by accounting for all the Senators' scoring in Tuesday's 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks. His last five markers have come on the road.
"It would be great to keep it going," said Michalek, who has eight goals in his past eight games. "I feel pretty good right now. I’m confident and I'm just going to keep doing the things I’m doing and work hard. Hopefully, we’ll get some wins, too."
Around the boards
Daniel Alfredsson took a "maintenance" day away from practice, but Clouston said the Senators captain should be good to go against the Kings ... Ottawa's lone victory in Los Angeles? Try Jan. 11, 2000, a 4-3 triumph at Staples ... Going into tonight's play, the Kings' Anze Kopitar was tied for third in National Hockey League scoring with 33 points, including 13 goals. But the Slovenian forward hasn't found the back of the net in 10 games and has gone pointless in the last four ... The Senators' road trip concludes this weekend with games Saturday in Phoenix (10 p.m., no TV, Team 1200) and Sunday in Anaheim (8 p.m., Rogers Sportsnet, Team 1200).