Daily News Kings look to continue their high-scoring homestand


They see me rollin'. They hatin'.
Staff member
The Kings could close out a perfect three-game homestand by prevailing over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday after winning their first two games by a combined 12-2 tally.

While the Kings will seek their third consecutive victory, the Bolts have already won five consecutive contests as part of a broader 8-2-1 stretch to solidify their wild-card position. The Kings sit two points ahead of Vegas for third in the Pacific. Should they retrocede that spot, they’ll almost certainly drop below Nashville, which has been hotter than its city’s chicken during a 16-game points streak (14-0-2) that has hammered down the top wild-card berth in the West.

In short, Saturday’s confrontation will be critical despite its status as an interconference clash, the Kings’ last of the season.

“They’re in a race, too, so it should be a really good hockey game,” said Kings interim coach Jim Hiller, who coached against Tampa in two conference finals as a New York Islanders assistant and with three different Eastern franchises overall. “I have a lot of history with Tampa; I’ve got a lot of respect for their team.”

Like the Islanders, whose six-game winning streak the Kings snapped March 11, and the Minnesota Wild, whose eight-game point streak ended against the Kings on Wednesday, Tampa Bay gives them a shot to heap cold water on a hot opponent.

That’s something the black-and-silver-clad gladiators have relished of late, through what Hiller called a mix of “preparedness and desperation.” Both qualities were exhibited during a scorching start against the Wild in a 6-0 cakewalk.

“When you see a team coming in that’s going good, you’d like to think you have to dial it up more,” Hiller said. “You’d like to think about that level every night, but there are nights in an 82-game season where you just aren’t, but yeah, we definitely like the response here recently.”

The Kings were more dialed up thanks in part to the presence of Viktor Arvidsson, whom Hiller described as an “Energizer Bunny” for his group. His return from injury was timely since Alex Turcotte missed the match against Minnesota with an upper-body injury. Between that malady and the Kings’ propensity to dress seven defensemen of late, Turcotte should be considered doubtful for Saturday.

Russell Morgan of Hockey Royalty reported that Turcotte was not on the ice for practice Friday, nor was Kings captain Anze Kopitar. Hiller later told reporters Kopitar had a maintenance day, indicating he’d be available for Saturday.

Kopitar has rediscovered his scoring touch after playing through considerable pain and having slumped in the middle of the campaign. He has seven points in his past four games as part of a surge that’s seen him compile 15 points in 15 games en route to 1,201 career points.

“When we had those injuries with (Adrian) Kempe and (Mikey) Anderson out of the lineup, he really had to step up,” Hiller said. “He’s elevated his game over the last month.”

The Lightning’s Steven Stamkos will be the next player to cross the 1,200-point threshold, and while he has a dozen points in just seven March matches, his outburst has been overshadowed by the even more copious scoring of teammate Nikita Kucherov.

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The Russian right wing has racked up 15 points in just four games, including a vulgar display of prowess against the New York Rangers, who placed sixth league-wide in goals-against average even after his five-point showing. It remains to be seen if March will be his most prolific month as he poured in 28 December points, punctuated by a six-point fireworks show against the even stingier Carolina Hurricanes.

For his efforts, Kucherov leads the two highest-paid players in the NHL – Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon and Edmonton’s Connor McDavid – in one of the most compelling Art Ross Trophy races in recent memory. Kucherov also paces the NHL in power-play points as the engine of its No. 1-ranked attack with the man advantage.

Tampa Bay at Kings​

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Crypto.com Arena

TV: Bally Sports West

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