The Los Angeles Kings are three games into a seven-game homestand and they have yet to take advantage, losing all three games amid familiar surroundings.
The Kings will try to reverse the trend when they play host to the Toronto Maple Leafs on Wednesday night.
Los Angeles has lost four straight over all, most recently falling to the Arizona Coyotes 2-1 in overtime on Sunday.
“I think we’re getting the chances, and some days they go in, and some days they don’t,” Kings defenceman Matt Roy said. “Hopefully, they start coming our way.”
Los Angeles defeated the Maple Leafs 5-1 on Nov. 8 in Toronto. That win was part of a seven-game winning streak, as the Kings seem to be surging in one direction or another so far this season. They had an early six-game losing streak as well.
Kings coach Todd McLellan said the roller-coaster nature of the season is reflective of the competitive balance within the NHL.
“The league is tight,” McLellan said. “We’re starting to see teams from the other conference and other divisions that we haven’t seen in a while, so we’re still all trying to figure it out.”
The Maple Leafs have remained steady for nearly four weeks, winning 11 of 13 in that span. Aside from the loss to Los Angeles in that stretch, Toronto lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 on Saturday.
Toronto goalies have four shutouts this month, including its most recent game on Sunday. Joseph Woll made his second NHL start and finished with 20 saves in a 3-0 win at the New York Islanders.
Jack Campbell, whom the Kings traded to the Maple Leafs on Feb. 5, 2020, has produced the other three shutouts this month for Toronto and will likely be in goal against his former team.
The Maple Leafs are still looking for more offence from a handful of players.
Auston Matthews, who led the NHL with 41 goals in 52 games last season, hasn’t scored in the past three games.
“Crossbars and posts seem to be getting in his way a little bit,” Toronto coach Sheldon Keefe said. “The chance generation has been there. He’s generating lots of shots. We’re not concerned. ... It’s just a matter of time before he starts filling the net again.”
Nick Ritchie is a much bigger concern for Keefe. Ritchie hasn’t scored a goal in the first 20 games this season after signing a two-year, US$5-million contract in the offseason.
“Nick is a guy that has scored in the league, coming off 15 goals in a shortened season [with the Boston Bruins],” Keefe said. “He can finish around the net. He is getting chances. He’s getting looks.”
Forward Michael Bunting has elevated his game for Toronto. His contributions don’t always show on the scoresheet, but he’s been a big part of its recent success.
“He’s a workhorse down low,” linemate Mitch Marner said. “He’s very good at protecting that puck as well, and he’s going to find that little secret spot on the ice to relieve pressure. I think we worked well, so we’ve got to make sure we keep that going into this California trip.”