Willie Desjardins must get Kings going, before it’s too late

LOS ANGELES — At the end of the day, it’s interim coach Willie Desjardins’ job to get the Kings playing the right way – in every way.

The Kings were averaging a league-low 2.07 goals going into their game against New Jersey on Thursday night at Staples Center. The Kings’ special teams have been poor. Their effort is up and down, and team captain Anze Kopitar spoke openly about it after Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to Arizona.

Consequently, the Kings entered their game against the Devils with the worst record in the league at 10-17-1 (21 points).

Of their 26 shots on goal Tuesday, the Kings had five in the final five minutes. They were playing very hard. They were determined. Afterward, Kopitar said, in part: “We’ve just gotta play a lot more minutes like we did the last five to seven minutes. You can tell there was desperation there and it’s just … we’ve gotta play like that for 60 minutes.”

Desjardins responded.

Sign up for Home Turf and get exclusive stories every SoCal sports fan must read, sent daily. Subscribe here.

“That’s a little bit of a tough one because if you get really, really aggressive earlier and you give one up, then that … so you have to be smart in what you do,” he said. “But at the same time, we want to come out and be ready to go.

“And we’ve done it in a number of games; it’s not like we haven’t done it in some games.”

The Kings were 6-9-0 under Desjardins going into Thursday’s game. Of the nine losses, the Kings scored first in only one of them. They scored first in all six of the wins.

SPECIAL TEAMS NOT SPECIAL

The Kings ranked second-to-last in the league in power-play success rate at 14.1 percent after going 0 for 2 on Tuesday. Forward Nate Thompson, who plays in all situations, touched on that.

“Well, I think it’s just bearing down in certain areas and shooting the puck, getting traffic to the net,” he said. “I know it sounds cliche, but those are the fundamentals. Those are the basic things you do to score goals.”

Desjardins is of the mind that his team is inching closer to becoming more successful with the man advantage.

“The power play’s a little bit different than the kill,” he said. “On the kill, it’s more structured. The power play probably doesn’t have as much structure to it, but I think it’s just being hungry. We are a little bit too controlled.

“We’ve gotta get pucks to the net and we’ve gotta out-number them at the net. And that’s the simplest thing on the power play. Our power play’s been better, but it’s not showing on the scoreboard and we’ve gotta have it showing on the board.”

Then there is the penalty kill. The Kings entered Thursday’s game with a kill percentage of 73.8. Only two teams were worse. The Kings gave up a power-play goal to Arizona in four chances, and the Coyotes scored a short-handed goal.

Perhaps, it was suggested to Desjardins, the Kings aren’t aggressive enough on the PK.

“It’s not just being aggressive, it’s all being on the same page,” he said. “If one guy’s aggressive and everybody else isn’t, then it won’t work. So you just have to be on the same page in being aggressive. And I think it’s us looking for times that we can be aggressive.”

Assistant coach Dave Lowry is in charge of the penalty-kill.

“He’s looked at it over and over,” Desjardins said. “He’s got a good handle on it. It’s interesting because a lot of things haven’t changed from last year, yet the PK’s not going as well, so I think we’re going to have to evaluate it a little bit and maybe make a few adjustments to it.”

The Kings’ penalty-kill percentage a season ago was the best in the league at 85 percent.

ANEMIC OFFENSE

The Kings averaged 2.89 goals per game last season. Of course, the power play was a bigger success at 20.4 percent, so this season’s drop to 14.1 percent is partly why the team has struggled to score.

Something has to give, if the Kings are to fight their way back into the race for a postseason berth. With just more than a third of the games played, the time is now, Desjardins intimated.

“We’ve gotta create more offense,” he said. “We just have to.”

Getting the defense involved helps, he said. Defenseman Alec Martinez has scored goals the past two games – in a 2-0 victory over Carolina on Sunday, and in Tuesday’s loss to Arizona.

***

Note from WSOE.Org : This content has been auto-generated from a syndicated feed.