Los Angeles Kings' 5 Biggest Areas for Improvement Entering February

Eric McKelvieSenior Writer IFebruary 4, 2015

Los Angeles Kings' 5 Biggest Areas for Improvement Entering February

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    Steve Babineau/Getty Images

    It's no secret: The Los Angeles Kings are struggling. They have lost four of their last five games heading into February and sit fifth in the Pacific Division and ninth overall in the Western Conference.

    Should L.A. fans be worried about missing out on the playoffs? Maybe in a few weeks, but not yet. 

    The Kings are a veteran team with plenty of playoff experience, and they've been in this position before. They are going to have to make some adjustments and get better individual performances out of certain players, and if they do, they may end up in the top six in the west.

    Here are the five improvements the Kings can make.

Kill Penalties

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    The Kings rank 25th in the NHL, having killed off just 77.8 percent of their penalties. 

    With Jonathan Quick, Drew Doughty, Anze Kopitar, Jarret Stoll and a number of other strong two-way forwards, there isn't any excuse for this poor performance. L.A. could put out its third group of four and it would still compare to a few teams' best penalty-killing units. 

    Taking chances in the corners to force turnovers, keeping puck movement to the outside and stepping into the shooting lanes can help the Kings keep the puck out of their net when shorthanded.

    Remember, they finished with an 88.3 percent penalty kill last season.

Win More Faceoffs

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    The Kings finished tied for second in the NHL after winning 52.8 percent of their draws in the 2013-14 season. This season they are winning 51.2 percent of their draws, which ranks 11th in the league. 

    This is by no means a bad number, but considering who the Kings have up the middle, it's not good enough. Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Jarret Stoll are as good of a top three as any. Carter is winning an impressive 55.5 percent of his faceoffs, but Stoll and Kopitar are both under 53 percent. 

    By winning more faceoffs, the Kings will have a better opportunity to control the puck. And when the Kings control the puck, they usually control the game.

Secondary Scoring

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    Juan Ocampo/Getty Images

    Anze Kopitar, Jeff Carter and Marian Gaborik are getting the job done up front. Although they have all experienced cold streaks this season, overall they are very close to, or on par with, the level of production expected of them.

    The Kings needs to get timely goals from other players. They need point shots to be tipped in, tap ins off scrambles and quick shots off the rush. 

    Justin Williams, Tyler Toffoli and Tanner Pearson are all in double digits in terms of goals on the season. It's players such as Dustin Brown, Dwight King and Jarret Stoll who need to provide more. And, of course, Mike Richards if he returns to L.A.

Win Shootouts

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    Mark J. Terrill/Associated Press

    To say the Los Angeles Kings are bad in shootouts in 2014-15 would be an understatement. The Kings are losing valuable points by dropping so many shootouts, and it could be costly come April.

    They are 1-7 in shootouts. They have scored two goals. Two goals on 28 attempts. 

    Converting on 7.1 percent of their shootout attempts is dismal. It's more than 10 percent worse than the 29th-ranked Carolina Hurricanes, who have scored on 19.9 percent of their attempts. The goaltenders haven't exactly given the Kings a chance, either, saving just .654 percent of their attempts, which ranks 20th in the league. 

    On the one hand, someone needs to step up and score. On the other, maybe it's time to push the envelope more in the final two minutes of overtime.

Beat the East

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    Reed Saxon/Associated Press

    L.A. isn't having a big issue going up against strong teams in its division. 

    The Kings are 7-3-6 against the Pacific Division and 14-7-9 against the west. It's easy to see that overtime and shootout losses have been their downfall.

    However, the bigger problem is against the East.

    Overall they are 7-9-3 against Eastern Conference opponents, including an awful 2-5-2 record against the Metropolitan Division. Note that the Vancouver Canucksthe team three points ahead of L.A.is 9-1 against the Metropolitan. 

    Stats courtesy of NHL.com.


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