The Los Angeles Kings were unable to produce anything offensively heading into the Olympic break and went 2-8-0 as a result.
With 23 games remaining in the regular season, the Kings need to start racking up points or they could fall into a wild-card spot within a couple of weeks. They have a number of upcoming games against the Edmonton Oilers and Calgary Flames that they should take advantage of.
With that said, here are the five keys to a fast start for the Kings.
The criticism of Dustin Brown will continue until he starts to produce offensively.
The captain has been good defensively and ranks fifth in the league with 187 hits. However, he has just 10 goals and six assists for 16 points in 58 games. Brown has averaged around 55 points per season throughout his career and is on pace for only 21 this year.
Because they lack secondary scoring, the Kings need Brown to put up better numbers. Regardless of whether he's on the first line with Anze Kopitar and Justin Williams or the second or third, Brown needs to outwork his opponents in the corners and go hard to the net to generate chances.
As we witnessed during the team's Stanley Cup run, if Brown contributes consistently, the Kings have a good shot at winning it all.
No matter who it is, the Kings need their goaltender to be nearly unbeatable.
Jonathan Quick, Martin Jones and Ben Scrivens—who was traded to the Oilers—were all solid when called upon this season.
Quick has a .911 save percentage, 2.18 goals-against average and three shutouts. Rookie sensation Jones has a .940 save percentage, 1.71 GAA and three shutouts.
The Kings depend on good team defense and outstanding goaltending to win games. It's been that way for years. With the offense drying up completely, however, the Kings' goaltenders need to be flawless to give the players in front of them more confidence.
L.A. needs to move the puck more effectively and get quality shots on net. Whether it's a Drew Doughty one-timer or a quick wrist shot by Jeff Carter, they need to do a better job of getting pucks through traffic.
Mike Richards and Dustin Brown are two players who need to contribute more. Richards had six goals on the man advantage in 48 games last season, but has just three so far this year. Brown has never had fewer than six power-play goals in a full campaign and had eight in 46 games last year. The captain has one power-play goal this season.
Getting pucks to the net and pouncing on rebounds will be key going forward. The power play could serve as a jump-start to the struggling offense.
The Kings are a veteran squad who have achieved the ultimate goal with head coach Darryl Sutter and his tight-checking, defensive system.
However, they now have a number of talented prospects who can make an impact in the NHL. Tyler Toffoli, Linden Vey, Tanner Pearson and goaltender Martin Jones have all had success with the Kings this year.
These players should get a shot at playing in the next couple of weeks. Each of the three forwards can provide an offensive jolt. Toffoli has 19 points in 39 NHL games this season. Vey has 35 points in 31 games in the AHL. Meanwhile, Pearson has 32 points in 41 AHL games.
If the veterans can't produce, why not give these youngsters more ice time?
Getting pucks on net isn't the problem. It's the quality of the chances.
L.A. needs to make the opposing goaltender's job a lot harder. This means players like Dustin Brown, Justin Williams, Dwight King and Kyle Clifford need to create screens and drive hard to the net with the puck. Creating rebounds is key, as many of the Kings' shots have been easy for the goaltender to glove or cover up.
If the Kings can score just two or three goals per game without sacrificing anything defensively, they should start racking up the wins—especially against some of the Western Conference's non-playoff teams.