Los Angeles Kings Have A Lot Of Work To Do Before Stretch Drive

LOS ANGELES AND EL SEGUNDO, CA — With the 2011 National Hockey League All-Star festivities in Raleigh, North Carolina now just a fading memory, players are now returning to their teams facing the uphill climb that is otherwise known as the stretch drive to the playoffs.

But after a dismal 3-8-0 performance in January, which was part of a larger skid in which they lost ten out of twelve games, the Los Angeles Kings find themselves in a huge hole that they must climb out of before they can even start thinking about the stretch run.

But wait, you say. The Kings are just one point out of a playoff berth in the Western Conference standings aren’t they? How is that a huge hole?

To answer that, just take a look the Kings’ February schedule. It will be a brutal month that has them playing their next ten games on the road, starting at Minnesota on February 1. To make matters worse, the Kings also have to play games on consecutive nights four times in February.

The Western Conference has been hyper-competitive this season, with the top teams bunched together very closely in the standings all season long, and that is expected to continue right to the end. As such, conventional wisdom dictates that the Kings need to earn at least twelve points during those ten games just to remain in the hunt.

But what went so terribly wrong in January?

Lackadaisical play, poor puck support on breakouts, a plethora of costly turnovers, defensive blunders and mental breakdowns all played a huge role, as did inconsistent effort. But just as glaring was not getting enough traffic in front of opposing goaltenders, who generally had an easy time seeing Kings’ shots.

“We need to get inside a little more, get better position at the net, and, in turn, get a rebound goal or two,” said right wing Justin Williams following a 2-0 loss to the Phoenix Coyote...

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