Kings-Maple Leafs Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated December 18, 2011
The Los Angeles Kings are expected to have their new coach in place later this week, which means John Stevens will get one final chance at the helm of the sputtering team. Before Darryl Sutter takes over, Stevens will try to help the club bounce back from its most lopsided defeat in two-plus seasons Monday night against the host Toronto Maple Leafs. Sutter has signed a multi-year contract and will be introduced Tuesday or Wednesday, according to the Kings' official website. Interim coach Stevens, 1-2-0 since taking over for the fired Terry Murray last Monday, is expected to remain on the staff through the rest of the season. The former Philadelphia Flyers coach was in charge when the Kings ended a five-game skid Thursday with a 2-1 win in Columbus, but he hasn't found a way to improve Los Angeles' struggling offense in his brief tenure. The Kings (14-14-4) have scored two goals or fewer in 11 consecutive games and needed many more than that in an 8-2 loss at Detroit on Saturday. "Flat-out mistakes that cost us goals," said defenseman Rob Scuderi, whose team is tied for last in the league with 68 goals scored. "I can only speak for myself, but once I get out there, I only worry about what I can do on the ice. You're not worrying about who the coach might be, but that's just me." Los Angeles actually outshot the Red Wings 29-27 during its most lopsided defeat since a 7-0 drubbing in Atlanta on Nov. 13, 2009. The Kings hadn't given up eight or more goals in a game since an 8-6 loss to Boston on Oct. 12, 2007, which featured current Leafs star Phil Kessel's first career hat trick. Toronto also struggled defensively over this weekend, giving up a combined 10 goals in losses to Buffalo and Vancouver. The Maple Leafs (16-13-3) were competitive in the opener of a three-game homestand Saturday against the Canucks - erasing a pair of deficits over the first 28 minutes - but they never took the lead in a 5-3 defeat. Toronto didn't help itself by getting outshot 27-19 in the first two periods. "We're right where I expected we would be," coach Ron Wilson said. "We've just got to stop shooting ourselves in the foot. It's as simple as that." The Maple Leafs managed to avoid too many mistakes in their last matchup with the Kings on Jan. 10, winning 3-2 on Nikolai Kulemin's third-period goal. Toronto, though, has lost four of five at home versus Los Angeles, suffering a 5-3 defeat in the Kings' most recent visit Jan. 26, 2010. Drew Doughty and Jarret Stoll each had a goal and an assist for Los Angeles in that win but they have a combined six points since Nov. 11. Only Anze Kopitar (five assists) and Dustin Penner (two goals, three assists) have more than four points during the Kings' last 11 games. The Maple Leafs' Joffrey Lupul, meanwhile, has three goals and three assists during a six-game point streak, but the former Anaheim winger has just one assist in his last six matchups with Los Angeles. Kessel, who has 39 points and could reclaim sole possession of the NHL's scoring lead from an injured Claude Giroux with one more, has four goals and two assists in four career games against the Kings.
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