The Los Angeles Kings, dead last in the Western Conference, have turned themselves into one of the hottest teams in the NHL as they get set to play host to the Ottawa Senators on Wednesday.
The Senators, meanwhile, had enjoyed some success of their own of late but were blitzed in a four-goal first period Tuesday and lost 5-2 to the host Anaheim Ducks.
The Kings’ youth movement cranked up when some proven veterans were moved at the trade deadline, and it has done wonders for a team now on a six-game winning streak.
Los Angeles (28-35-6, 62 points) also has earned a point in eight of its past nine games going back to Feb. 20, which was four days before the deadline, a point when some franchise-altering moves were being made. The Kings traded veterans such as defenseman Alec Martinez and forwards Tyler Toffoli and Kyle Clifford.
Five Kings players 22 years old or younger have now scored goals this season, the most recent being Mikey Anderson, who delivered his first career goal on Monday in Los Angeles’ 3-1 home victory over the Colorado Avalanche.
“I came up just trying to get a taste of what it was like, trying to get a feel for the league,” said Anderson, a 20-year-old Minnesota native. “Just to come up and play my game, I was feeling confident (in the minors), and whatever was going to happen was going to happen. But so far, I’ve been feeling comfortable.”
The biggest producer from that young group is center Blake Lizotte, who has six goals and 17 assists in 64 games.
Also in the class is center Gabriel Vilardi, the 11th overall draft pick in the 2017 draft. He scored a goal mere seconds into his first shift in the NHL on Feb. 20, when the team’s winning run began. Vilardi had an assist against the Avalanche on Monday.
“(There is) only one of two ways: You can roll over and play dead, or you can move the needle a little bit, and we’ve chosen to move the needle until this point,” Kings coach Todd McLellan told reporters Monday. “I’m proud of the group, but we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
Despite the Tuesday defeat, the Senators (25-33-12, 62 points) are still on their best run since they earned seven victories in a nine-game stretch in November. That success started with a 3-2 overtime victory at home over the Kings on Nov. 7.
Now comes their final game of the season against the Kings, a contest that marks the middle of a five-game road trip and is the final game of three consecutive in California.
Brady Tkachuk and Colin White scored goals against the Ducks, but Ottawa couldn’t overcome an early 4-0 deficit.
“We continue to get better,” Senators coach D.J. Smith said, according to nhl.com. “We’re in games with everybody. As we get older and more mature, we’ll win more of these.”
Marcus Hogberg started in goal for the Senators on Tuesday, making 10 saves on just 15 shot attempts. Craig Anderson, who won each of his past two starts after a three-game losing streak, is expected to be the goalie against the Kings on Wednesday.
–Field Level Media