Riding a three-game winning streak, the Los Angeles Kings are among the NHL’s hottest teams heading into Thanksgiving and a Friday afternoon visit to their California rivals, the Anaheim Ducks.
Coming off a 4-1 win over Pacific Division foe Arizona, the Kings’ current streak brings them to 9-1-2 through their past 12 games. With that, they have lifted themselves up the divisional standings, sitting on 25 points through 17 games, trailing only the Vegas Golden Knights and Vancouver Canucks.
Much of the hockey club’s success has relied on its road prowess and ability to hinder powerful power play units across the league. Heading into Anaheim, they have the third-longest road winning streak to start the season in NHL history.
“We are a veteran team,” Kings coach Todd McLellan told reporters following the win over Arizona. “We have been together as a group for a long time. We understand what our structure is. Our game management skills have gotten better from the start of the year until now.”
Adrian Kempe, 27, leads the team with eight goals and 18 points, while 36-year-old Anze Kopitar has shown few signs of slowing down with a team-high nine goals and 17 points through as many games.
At the same time, the penalty kill has seen a major improvement from last season, with the veteran core leading the team to a Western Conference-best 90.2 percent, only trailing the Boston Bruins for the NHL lead.
In net, the Kings have enjoyed solid goaltending from starter Cam Talbot, who is expected to get the nod in Friday’s game, having posted a .930 save percentage through 13 games. Meanwhile, Pheonix Copley has started five games, including the win over Arizona.
Playing to their potential as the season approaches the one-third point, the Kings find themselves in a much different place than the Ducks, who have struggled to win close games despite their early-season success coming in tight contests.
Anaheim, which holds a four-game losing streak heading into the matinee matchup, failed to snap its skid on Wednesday night, falling 4-3 to the visiting Montreal Canadiens.
“They’re close games, the games you could win,” Anaheim coach Greg Cronin said. “We were winning them a month ago.”
Through 19 games this season, staying out of the penalty box has been a significant and hampering issue for the Ducks, having taken the most individual penalties of any team in the NHL with 107.
While their penalty kill ranks 13th in the league at 82.4 percent, it’s not enough to limit the impact of their discipline issues.
Yet, the quality of their young players has been a positive for the Ducks and continues to give them a chance each night, as 20-year-old Mason McTavish scored twice against Montreal, bringing his team-leading total to 10 goals and 20 points, while 18-year-old Leo Carlson has three goals and nine points in 13 games.