Daily News Kings return from break to face archrival Edmonton

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After some much needed rest and relaxation that scattered Kings players about the continent since their last game on Jan. 31, the extended All-Star break will give way to the stretch run on Saturday, when the Kings will host the archrival Edmonton Oilers.

It will be the first game as head coach for Jim Hiller, who was promoted last week to replace Todd McLellan after he was relieved of a role he held for four and a half seasons. Hiller had a firsthand account of the Kings’ rapid descent from conference contender to wild-card hopeful.

“When it’s not going real good for you at different times, it makes the job harder. When you lose a little bit of your swagger and your confidence, and too many guys lose it at the same time, then it can blossom,” Hiller said. “That’s, I believe, what it did. So, the break is good. Let’s just get back to it, let’s understand who we are, get back to the identity of the LA Kings and go back to work.”

“I don’t how quick they can get their heads back together and back feeling confident and all that stuff,” he continued. “We know sometimes that the only way to do that is go out there and earn it through our work ethic. If we do that, and we get rewarded, I don’t think it takes long to get your confidence back. If you don’t work, then it’s probably going to take longer and you’re rolling the dice a little bit. I have full belief.”

The Kings won three of their past 17 games, while the Oilers, who made an early-season coaching change of their own, have won 16 of 17. They fell on Tuesday to defending champion Vegas in Edmonton’s first loss since Dec. 19. They’ll face the Kings on a back-to-back turnaround after visiting the Ducks on Friday.

Oilers captain Connor McDavid and the Scottie Pippen to his Michael Jordan, Leon Draisaitl, combined for 49 points across their 16 triumphs.

Meanwhile, the Kings’ two most prominent players, two-time champions Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughty, were the subject of discussion in Hiller’s introductory news conference Thursday. Doughty has led the NHL in time on ice this season and Kopitar has chewed up big minutes despite some evident physical limitations that have curbed his production of late.

“They’re still great players, despite their age. They’ve had amazing careers to this point, and they’re not done,” Hiller said. “What does that look like? I don’t know, but I’m sure glad they’re both here, and that’s all I can tell you.”

Injured winger Viktor Arvidsson has also been present, lately. He mixed back into the group as a full participant in practice on Friday, Russell Morgan of Hockey Royalty tweeted.

Goalie deployment, Hiller said, would flow along the lines of a hot hand, which currently belongs to David Rittich. He won both his starts in December and had the Kings’ only three wins in January. The Kings have earned points in eight of his nine starts overall.

Oft-scrutinized winger Arthur Kaliyev has compiled several healthy scratches this season. The sniping flanker was once billed as a key component of the Kings’ future but has scored just six goals this season.

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Hiller, who ran the Kings’ power play for the past year and a half, knew very well how dangerous Kaliyev could be after he racked up a career-high 12 power-play points last season. This year, he has only four so far, and has missed the presence of a right-handed shot on the opposing flank, said Hiller, who believed Kaliyev would have an opportunity to re-establish himself.

“He’s a scorer, he’s a power-play guy, he’s a finisher, so he hasn’t had the looks that he had last year,” Hiller said. “When you don’t have the looks and you don’t score, and you’re a scorer, now you start to get frustrated, now you question yourself, and it makes it hard. So, I’ve got empathy for Arthur.”

Nevertheless, Hiller said there would be no drastic changes tactically or personnel-wise. His promotion could inject energy into a matchup against the team that eliminated the Kings in each of the past two postseasons, one in which the last thing their fans want would be more of the same.

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