Battle royale for Flames, Kings

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

The business of the NHL season quickly washes away the good vibrations of a perfect four-game road trip.

However, a pair of home losses in which they’ve managed just one goal has made their strong stretch a distant memory for the Los Angeles Kings as they ready to play host to the Calgary Flames Monday night.

“It’s disappointing,” admitted Ryan Smyth, whose scoring woes are starting to become a storyline in La La Land. “But the effort (Saturday) was a lot better.”

Maybe it’s a credit to the Kings for having any success considering the struggles some players are going through.

Smyth has gone 12 games without a goal and has just one in 22 outings. Dustin Penner has two tallies in nine games since coming via trade from Edmonton. Alexei Ponikarovsky has one goal in 21 games.

Those slumps are part of a bigger picture for a Kings team which returned from a trip in which they beat Detroit, Columbus, Dallas and Nashville only to be thumped 4-0 by St. Louis Thursday and then fall 2-1 in overtime to the Anaheim Ducks Saturday.

Anaheim goalie Ray Emery stopped 31 shots in just his second start of the season, an incredible turnaround for a netminder whose career was seemingly derailed by injury and his antics.

However, the Kings believe they took a major step towards having their game in order, despite needing a late goal by Dustin Brown to force overtime.

“We deserved better (against the Ducks),” said defenceman Willie Mitchell in the aftermath of the loss to their closest rivals. We’ll focus on the positive things. We created a lot of traffic around Emery and a lot of chances. We just didn’t capitalize.

“We continue to do those things, we’ll score a lot of goals.”

With all their talent, it should be just a matter of time for the Kings to break out of their doldrums.

Whether it’s in time for a win against the Flames remains to be seen.

Head coach Terry Murray is optimistic his team is ready to change its fortunes, but he knows it won’t be an easy feat, even if the Flames are coming off Sunday’s tilt in Anaheim.

“That’s a heavy team to play against, a team we haven’t had a lot of success against the past couple of years,” Murray said. “We’ve got to bring the same intensity and effort we had (Saturday night) to get the job done.”

The Flames have the upper hand in the head-to-head series over the past few seasons, but Los Angeles has taken two of three meetings this season, the most recent a 4-3 shootout at the Dome last month.

The message among the Kings is to just be ready to perform, not worry about how the Flames fared in Disneyland amidst the Western Conference’s playoff fight.

“It seems like everybody’s playing each other and everybody wants to scoreboard watch, no doubt about it,” Mitchell said. “We have to worry about our preparation, our focus, our process, the things we do well.

“If we keep doing the things we did (Saturday night), I like our chances to get in (the playoffs).”


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