In a season filled with injuries, most prominently a serious groin injury suffered by star goaltender Jonathan Quick, the Los Angeles Kings have stayed afloat in the face of adversity, behind elite backup goaltending and outstanding play from their deep defensive unit. After a 14-6-3 streak without Quick and a five game pointless streak, the Los Angeles Kings were badly needed their star goaltender back. To kick off a five-game home stand Quick returned and the Kings regained their winning ways, defeating the Vancouver Canucks 3-1. Quick didn’t miss a beat, making 27 saves as the Kings rallied back with three goals in the 3rd period to earn the victory. With victory in hand, the Kings have a golden opportunity to make a run back towards the top of the standings.
Up until the recent five-game losing streak the Kings had thrived behind the stellar play of backup goaltenders Ben Scrivens and Martin Jones. Scrivens, who the Kings acquired along with Matt Frattin in the Jonathon Bernier trade, has been as hot as any goaltender in the NHL this season. Scrivens, a late bloomer who didn’t make his NHL debut until the age of 26 last year with Toronto, has 1.97 goals against average and a save percentage of .931. A month ago the Kings called up Martin Jones from the AHL Manchester Monarchs, and like Scrivens, Jones has shown incredible form. The rookie tied an NHL record by winning his first eight starts, including three shutouts. Jones has managed to top even Scrivens, with an absurdly low 1.41 goals against average and a .950 save percentage. The play of Scrivens and Jones has leveled out of late, probably too be expected. With two solid backups, the Kings are suddenly wealthy in the goaltender department, as they welcomed back Quick.
In a stacked Western Conference the play of Jones and Scrivens may have saved the Kings season. Poor backup goaltending may have put Los Angeles in a hole they couldn’t dig out of, not to mention the other injuries the Kings have dealt with key cogs such as Jeff Carter, Jarrett Stoll, Matt Greene, Willie Mitchell and Kyle Clifford. With Quick soon to return the Kings are finally healthy and look primed to make a run toward Chicago and Anaheim at the top of the Western Conference standings. The next four games, all at STAPLES Center, are key. The next four at STAPLES Center brings in some tough competition, from both the Western and Eastern Conferences. With Saturday’s win versus Vancouver in the books the Kings host the Minnesota Wild on Tuesday night. Minnesota, led by Zach Parise and Ryan Suter is a gritty, defensive oriented club. The Wild will be a good warm up for Thursday night’s game versus the Boston Bruins. Boston, winner of the Stanley Cup two seasons ago leads the Atlantic Division with 56 points, the second best record in the Eastern Conference. Following the matchup, with the Bruins, the Kings host perennial power Detroit on Saturday, January 11. The Red Wings are in playoff contention as a new member of the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. Led by Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg Detroit is one of the most storied franchises in league history and, like Boston, one of the Original Six NHL franchises. Los Angeles then wraps up the home stand with another visit by the Vancouver Canucks. In an odd twist of scheduling the Canucks visit the Kings twice in a nine-day span.
If Los Angeles can effectively navigate their upcoming home stand they’ll be in good shape leading up to the Sochi Winter Olympics break. With Quick back in the lineup, the Kings are primed for a race toward the top of the NHL standings. Armed with one of the top defensive units in the league and as good as any team in possession, Los Angeles has all the indicators of a team that can make another deep Stanley Cup playoff run. By:Chris Michaels.
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