Jets visit slumping Kings
LOS ANGELES -- The Winnipeg Jets will attempt to record their first victory on a four-game road trip when they face the struggling Los Angeles Kings on Wednesday night at Staples Center.
In the road-trip opener, Winnipeg (12-5-3) dropped a 5-3 decision to the Nashville Predators on Monday, getting outscored 3-0 and outshot 19-7 in the decisive second period.
"We didn't like our second period at all," Jets defenseman Tyler Myers said. "Down 4-1 going into the third, we just told ourselves to go as hard as we can, work as hard as we can to give ourselves a shot. I liked the way we battled in the third to try and come back, but it was just too little too late. ...
"We've got a day off (Tuesday), regroup and get ready for a big three games left on this road trip. We're going to have to come out hungry against Los Angeles. They're a good team, doing well, and that's going to be a big game."
Despite the loss, Jets coach Paul Maurice remains upbeat regarding his team's play and its chances in a wide-open Central Division.
"We have been pretty consistent after our opening two losses," Maurice said. "We have had a couple that we did not like, but every team has that. We have been resilient in games as well."
Center Mark Scheifele (11 goals, 14 assists) and winger Blake Wheeler (five goals, 20 assists), are pacing the Jets' solid start while Patrik Laine is second in goals with 10.
The Jets have lived up to the expectations of being a solid offensive team with the seventh-ranked offense (3.3 goals per game), but the play of goaltender Connor Hellebuyck is another primary reason for the team's early-season improvement.
Hellebuyck, who has a 12-2-2 record with a 2.45 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage, wrested the starting job away from Steve Mason, who was signed to an $8.2 million, two-year free agent contract in the offseason.
It has been a turkey of a November for Los Angeles, who own a 2-5-1 record in their past eight games after a strong and unexpected 10-2-1 start.
The Kings (12-7-2) dropped a 4-2 decision to the host Vegas Golden Knights on Sunday night, Los Angeles' fifth loss in six games. Goaltender Jonathan Quick (9-7-1, 2.47 GAA, .926 save percentage) delivered his worst performance of the season, surrendering three goals on nine shots in 11:22 of play.
Trevor Lewis, who registered his sixth goal in the loss to Vegas, refused to pin the loss solely on the goalie.
"We were not ready to start the game," Lewis said. "We were not ready for their game plan. We did fight back, but the first period killed us."
Under coach John Stevens, the Kings have transitioned to a more up-tempo style offense without sacrificing defense. They enter the Wednesday contest with the top-ranked penalty kill (90.1 percent) and second-ranked goals-against average (2.38).
Given their recent woes on offense, the Kings may need to put together another strong defensive effort to stop the high-powered Jets. Los Angeles has scored more than two goals once in its past six contests.
Lewis sees one aspect of his team's game that is a factor in its declining offense.
"There was more structure in our game at the beginning of the season," Lewis said. "We have to go home and regroup."
Stevens noted that Los Angeles' compacted schedule could be impacting the team's play. The Vegas game was the Kings' fifth in eight days, and with days off Monday and Tuesday, he hopes to have a re-energized team hit the ice against Winnipeg.
"We did not score enough and gave up too much in these last five games," Stevens said. "It was the end of a tough week. I thought that if we came out strong in the first 10 minutes against Vegas we would have been fine."
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