Kings look to reach season-high mark vs. Leafs

NHL Hockey
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The Los Angeles Kings will try to win four in a row for the first time this season when they host the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday.

The Kings have strung together wins against the Pittsburgh Penguins, New Jersey Devils and Vegas Golden Knights, allowing one goal in each victory.

Cal Petersen has been in goal for two of the past three victories, and veteran Jonathan Quick for the other.

“They’ve bailed us out numerous times,” Kings forward Anze Kopitar recently told reporters of Petersen and Quick.

The Maple Leafs opened a three-game California trip with a 5-2 loss to the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday, ending a three-game winning streak and a string of 11 straight victories against teams from California.

“We are going to play an L.A. team now that, when we looked at the games coming in, is playing as good as anyone on this trip and beating good teams and making it hard for them to play against,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe told reporters after the loss to San Jose. “This trip is not an easy one for us, and we are off to a tough start.”

Before the loss to San Jose, the Maple Leafs had combined for 13 goals in a three-game winning streak against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Florida Panthers and Vancouver Canucks.

Sustaining offense has been a key part of Toronto’s success, but that was lacking against the Sharks.

“We’ve got to find a way to generate more than two goals if we want to have a chance to win,” Keefe said.

The Sharks, Kings and Ducks — the three opponents on the Leafs’ trip — are the bottom three teams in the Western Conference, making the final two games of the trip vital for Toronto, which entered Thursday five points ahead of the Panthers for third in the Atlantic Division.

The Maple Leafs are trying to reach the postseason for a fourth straight season.

“If there is anything to learn (from the loss to San Jose), it’s that the other teams have good players too,” Keefe said.

Los Angeles will be up against at least one familiar face in Toronto forward Kyle Clifford. He spent 9 1/2 seasons with the Kings, helping them win two Stanley Cup championships, before he was traded to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 6.

“He brought the character to the room, on the ice,” Kopitar said. “He’ll go through a brick wall for his teammates.”

Toronto goalie Jack Campbell was also part of that trade, and it’s possible he’ll be in net. The Maple Leafs also have a game on Friday at the Anaheim Ducks, so Campbell will likely start one of the two games.

Kopitar continues to show he’s the best player for Los Angeles, scoring two goals in a 4-1 win at the Golden Knights on Sunday, giving him 20 on the season for the 11th time in his NHL career.

“We’ve been managing to score some goals,” Kopitar said. “It’s obviously a little bit easier when you have two or three on the board instead of 1-0 games and 2-1.”

The Kings lost at the Maple Leafs 3-1 on Nov. 5, the middle game in a three-game winning streak for Toronto.

Two weeks later, Mike Babcock was fired and replaced by Keefe.

–Field Level Media

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