Los Angeles Kings face Tampa Bay Lightning after tough road trip

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After losing two generational talents to end their road trip, Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby and Washington’s Alex Ovechkin, the Kings returned home to face the team of the decade so far, the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay, who will host the Kings on Tuesday, has been in each of the last three Stanley Cup Finals, including wins in 2020 and 2021. Viktor Gedman, Nikita Kucharov, Steven Stemkas and Andrey Vasilevsky.

As for the Kings, they’ll be playing with some confidence on offense, but some soul searching to do on the other side of the puck. In five matches, their four goals per game was certainly encouraging, but they finished minus-three on a trip that saw only one of their three wins come in regular time.

With three grueling games and plenty of bonus hockey to start their journey, it was clear the Kings weren’t full of energy during losses to Pittsburgh and Washington. But defeating the former by five goals and leading by two goals in the match against the latter, conceding a total of 10 goals, was definitely not part of the Kings’ game plan.

“It’s tough at the start of the year, you’re not used to games coming quickly and being eight or nine days away, but that’s certainly no excuse to give up –– what have we given up? –– 23, on the road,” coach Todd McLellan said. “If we left Los Angeles last Friday and someone told me we’d score 20 goals on that trip, I’d be damned happy to win a lot of games.”

McLellan said he saw signs of progress from a loss to Crosby’s Penguins to a one-goal loss to Ovechkin’s Capitals, but that his team still isn’t where it needs to be, especially defensively.

Through seven games, the Kings have scored more goals than any other team in the NHL and are tied for fifth-worst in the league. It happened with a relatively healthy lineup, too, although defenseman Alex Edler missed three games midway through the trip (face) and winger Alex Iaffala (lower body) was placed on long-term injured reserve over the weekend.

On the bright side, the Kings saw winger Viktor Arvidsson score his first three points of the campaign against Washington. They were part of a six-point outburst for the trio of Arvidsson, Filip Dano and Trevor Moore, who were the backbone of the Kings’ turnaround last season.

“I’m more comfortable with the puck, playing, and we’re starting to get back to ourselves: me, Phil and Mursi. We’re starting to feel better,” Arvidsson said.

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