Kings Need to Capitalize at Home

The Los Angeles Kings have had a season of peaks and valleys. Some peaks have been higher than others and some valleys lower than most. At the moment, they seem to be coming out of one of their lowest points of the season with confidence and speed.

Los Angeles had a rough December. From the first of the month through Dec. 30 they went 5-5-3, which included a 3-4-2 record from Dec. 13 through Dec. 29, when they were on a season-high nine-game road trip. They went winless over the course of the final three games of that trip and seemed to be at the lowest point of their season to date. But then came a New Year’s Eve matchup against the San Jose Sharks.

On the last day of 2016, the Kings returned home for the first time in three weeks and hosted San Jose. Jeff Carter scored his 20th goal of the season and the Sharks were limited to just 20 shots on goal in Los Angeles’s 3-2 win, which snapped their three-game losing streak.

Then just three days later, it was much of the same between the California rivals. This time in San Jose, Carter, with his team-leading 21st goal of the season, tied the game for the Kings in the third period and later assisted on Tanner Pearson’s game-winning overtime goal.

Carter commented on Los Angeles sweeping the back-to-back against San Jose, via LA Kings Insider.

It was big games. We know what we’re getting in to when we play them. We have some ground to make up on them and a lot of teams in our division so we really keyed on these games and it’s good to get 4.

The back-to-back wins over the Sharks stopped the bleeding in a hurry for the Kings and in a way put a forgettable December behind the team.

Now after a December where they were on the road for 10 of their 14 games and a road game to start off 2017, Los Angeles stares a seven-game homestand dead in the face. A seven-game homestand that could propel them from one of the season’s lowest valleys to possibly its highest peak.

Home Sweet Home

Going into the homestand, the Kings have 42 points, sit in the first wild card spot and boast a record of 11-4-1 when skating on Staples Center ice. This presents a prime opportunity for them to grab some points where they excel, on home ice, and possibly jump the Edmonton Oilers, Anaheim Ducks and Sharks who are just three, four and six points ahead in the Pacific Division respectively.

Although the Kings do play better at home, where they have grabbed 23 of a possible 32 points, this seven-game stretch won’t be a walk in the park. At the time of this writing, six of the seven teams coming through Los Angeles are at .500 or better, and four of the seven have higher point totals than the Kings.

Patrik Laine - Winnipeg Jets vs Philadelphia Flyers - November 17, 2016 (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)
Patrik Laine is tied for first among rookies with 34 points in 40 games.  (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

Notable games include matchups against the Minnesota Wild, one of the NHL’s hottest teams, the St. Louis Blues, who, depending on how the season shakes out, may be battling the Kings for a wild card spot, and another division game against the Sharks to end the homestand. Also coming into Los Angeles are the Detroit Red Wings to start the seven-game stretch, Jamie Benn and the Dallas Stars, and Patrik Laine and the Winnipeg Jets.

Again, the Kings are not going to just walk away with two points every night, but they need to jump on the opportunity to build on two huge wins against the Sharks and make some noise on home ice.

Making this next stretch of hockey even more important is the fact that the Kings will finish the month of January with a five-game road trip. A record of 8-11-3 when away from Staples Center is nothing to be proud of. But if Los Angeles can string together some wins during this homestand it may alleviate some of the pressure on the team as they leave California later this month.