The Los Angeles Kings haven’t been at full strength up front since before Christmas, but they keep finding ways to make up ground in the standings.
The Kings will try to match their season high with a fourth consecutive win when they host the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
Los Angeles has been without center Trevor Moore (upper body) the past eight games and right winger Arthur Kaliyev (lower body) the past 10, but they still posted two wins against the Pacific Division-leading Vegas Golden Knights in that span.
The Kings have also knocked off the defending Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche, the surging Boston Bruins and such Western Conference powers as the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames in the past month.
In their most recent game, a 4-3 win against the visiting San Jose Sharks on Wednesday, the Kings also were without left winger Viktor Arvidsson, who was ill.
“What I like about our team right now is the balance,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said. “When (the injured/sick players) come back, we have internal competition up front and we have balance.”
After impressive wins over the host Golden Knights on Saturday (5-1) and the visiting Oilers on Monday (6-3), Los Angeles took a step back against the struggling Sharks but still managed to pull out another victory.
“When you’re not playing your best, it’s nice to find a way to win,” McLellan said. “A couple of years ago, we wouldn’t have won that game when we were not playing our best. We’re probably down by two and maybe looking for some moral victories. Now, we can truly evaluate and admit when we’re not the best and then try and fix it.”
The Devils won their third straight game on Friday night, blowing out the struggling Anaheim Ducks 6-2 to improve to 16-2-1 on the road this season.
On Saturday, New Jersey will be seeking its first four-game winning streak since its franchise-record-tying, 13-game streak in November.
“We’re definitely for real, and we’ve really been showing that on the road now,” Devils forward Jesper Bratt said after scoring two goals against Anaheim. “We’ve got a fun game (Saturday).”
Bratt, in his sixth season with New Jersey, said this season’s team is a lot stronger from top to bottom.
The Devils continue to be led by Jack Hughes, who scored his 27th and 28th goals of the season against the Ducks, putting him on pace to become the first 50-goal scorer in team history.
“A lot of the years before, we had some good, tough players and we had some edge on the team, but this year, I think from goalies all the way out to our fourth line, we’re doing a great job,” Bratt said. “We’re really wearing teams out and playing really fast and really quick hockey right now.”
The Devils could be getting a healthy forward back in the lineup.
Nathan Bastian has been out since sustaining a shoulder injury in a 5-1 win against the Washington Capitals on Nov. 26. He had eight points (three goals, five assists) in 21 games before getting hurt.
Mackenzie Blackwood will start in goal for the Devils on Saturday after Vitek Vanecek made 31 saves against the Ducks. Blackwood hasn’t played since a 5-4 shootout loss against the Carolina Hurricanes on Jan. 1.
Blackwood is 1-0-2 in three career appearances against Los Angeles, including a 3-0 win against the Kings on Feb. 8, 2020, in his second of back-to-back shutouts.
He faced the Kings again three weeks later in Los Angeles and allowed just one goal in regulation before losing 2-1 in overtime.
–Field Level Media