For a while, it was the very definition of “let them hang around and think they can play with you” in LA Thursday night with Buffalo in town. This because the Kings got off to a slowish start and got just eight shots on Jhonas Enroth in period one to the Sabres’ seven on Jonathan Quick. LA did score the first goal, late in the opening period.
The second was halfway over before the Kings started to pull away, with another goal at 12:18 and an increase in shots to end the frame up 20-12 in that department.
The Sabres’ cause was not helped by a continued march to the penalty box, with four minors called before the end of the second, three of them in that period. And in a case of “you just can’t do that when you’re the weaker team,” both of LA’s first two goals were scored with the extra man. The major sinner on the night—Tyler Myers, who ended up with three minors and a fighting major.
The game, in fact, was one of those midweek (OK, just past midweek) affairs that saw both sides trading chances, with Buffalo actually getting some pretty good looks at Quick despite not being able to score. For instance, they had him down on the ice and fighting off the puck twice in the first period. In the second, there were a couple of shots that found their way to the net and forced big rebounds. In the third, the action was much tighter, with the shot totals just like period one, 8-7 in favor of LA.
The game ended 2-0 Kings, and Jonathan Quick got the shutout in his 300th career game. After, however, he acted unimpressed with his accomplishment. “A win’s a win. 6-5 or 1-0, it’s the same thing. We got two points,” he commented. He was happy that the team had had some good practice over the past couple of days going over details that had been lacking. “It was the first time in a while that we didn’t give up a penalty kill goal, and that’s a positive.”
His coach said after that the shutout it was a team accomplishment. “It’s our second one this year. Ben Scrivens had one in Florida against the Panthers, so shutouts are not individual things. It’s not like throwing no-hitters.” He then went on to say that “Goaltenders who have the best records are on the best teams.”
Those who follow the Kings, or wish they could if they live far away, might be interested to know that there are lots of little goings-on with the team this week aside from game action. Keaton Ellerby was picked up on waivers by Winnipeg November 2nd after being signed by the Kings to a one-year deal last summer. With him gone and defenseman Matt Greene out with what was labeled various things but has come to be known as a mystery problem after Darryl Sutter called it as such this week, the team has just six defensemen healthy enough to play. Hence Alex Martinez came back into the lineup for his sixth game of the year but his first since October 17th in Nashville.
Of bigger import in this game was the debut of Linden Vey, the fourth round pick of the Kings in 2009, 96th overall. He had been in town for camp and was one of the last players cut. His name is often mentioned in context with two other young offensive stars for the team, those guys being Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson, but Sutter was clear this week in saying that he doesn’t think of them as a trio, but rather sees each guy as his own kind of player. Toffoli has now found his way into two games this year, twelve in his career. He was playing with Dwight King and Mike Richards for most of the night on Thursday, while Vey was on a line with Jordan Nolan and Kyle Clifford.
Only Toffoli figured in the scoring, with an assist on the first LA goal. Vey got about eleven and a half minutes and Toffoli fifteen and a half. Sutter commented about Vey, “We tried to put him in places to succeed. Not places, but opportunities. It’s his first NHL game, so we’ll give him that.” When asked how he did, Sutter repeated, “We gave him opportunities to succeed, so we used him on the power play and on the penalty killing, which is what we talked to him about this summer, and so we’ll see if he makes us make decisions on who plays Saturday” (the last part of that quote is not clear on my recorder, but that’s close).
Perhaps working his way into the doghouse is Jake Muzzin, on this evening paired with Drew Doughty. “Drew carried a lot of mail tonight. His partner’s going to have to play a lot better,” the coach analyzed. “How’s he play? He’ll have to play a hell of a lot better than he’s playing. He’ll have to play a hell of a lot better than he’s playing if he wants to continue to play with Drew Doughty. Drew Doughty is a special, special player, and you have to raise your level to play with him.”
“It’s a tough division,” Sutter said by way of summing up the bigger picture. “If I said that after how many games have we played now, sixteen? That we’d have ten wins, I would have said that was good, and that shows you how tough it is.”
Later, when responding to a question about Kopitar, Sutter shifted the tone. “I know that we’re in Los Angeles, and everything’s based on stars and what they do,” he commented.
“I thought it was about winning. That’s what it’s about.”
There’s no big mystery about what’s wrong with Jeff Carter—he’s wearing an ankle boot.
The Kings now face Vancouver on Saturday evening. The start it not as usual, but at 7pm.
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