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HELENE ELLIOTT

Kings have a bad case of the Blues

L.A. falls to 1-6 on eight-game homestand with a lackluster effort that draws boos.

January 13, 2011|Helene Elliott
  • St. Louis right wing Matt D'Agostini, left, breaks away from Kings defenseman Willie Mitchell before taking a shot during the third period of the Kings' 3-1 loss Thursday.
St. Louis right wing Matt D'Agostini, left, breaks away from Kings… (Kirby Lee / U.S. Presswire )

Maybe it's time to stop saying the Kings are in a slump after their sizzling 12-3 start.

Maybe the way they've been playing lately is who they really are, a punchless group that easily concedes its end of the ice and is frittering away an eight-game homestand.

There was no other conclusion Thursday after their meek 3-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues, who lost at Anaheim on Wednesday and were winless in five games.

The Blues weren't winless when they left Staples Center. The Kings gave them free passage through all three zones and probably handed over the keys to the Zamboni too.

Who are the real Kings? The team that was "almost in mid-season form at the start of the season," according to defenseman Jack Johnson, or the one that's 1-6 on an eight-game homestand and has lost seven of eight overall?

"We'd like to say the 12-3," left wing Ryan Smyth said. "It's a matter of collectively finding it within this locker room. Everybody's got to look at themselves in the mirror and be prepared to come to play."

Late second-period goals by Ryan Reaves and Alex Steen proved too much for the Kings (23-19-1), who were victimized by a B.J. Crombeen deflection in the first period but pulled even on Michal Handzus' deflection of an Alec Martinez second-effort shot at 5:37 of the second period. Goaltender Jonathan Quick faced 21 shots in losing for the fifth time in six decisions.

Coach Terry Murray's continued line juggling did little. The question now is how much is his fault and how much can be attributed to the material he's working with.

General Manager Dean Lombardi, out of town on a scouting trip, did not respond to two inquiries about whether he's considering a coaching change. That's unlikely because Lombardi and Murray are close, and because Murray did an excellent job the past two seasons.

But they can't continue to play this way — and no one knows how to change it.

"I think if I had the answer it would have been stopped," Johnson said. "You're not going to win many hockey games when you score one goal. Things just aren't going well for us right now. We get passes bouncing over our sticks…It's a tough time right now for us."

He said there's no lack of effort and he credited the Blues, who had defeated the Kings, 6-4, at St. Louis on Dec. 16. "We're just not winning games," Johnson said. "I really wish I had an answer for you."

The answer might be they're not using their strengths — Drew Doughty was credited with no shots — they don't have enough scoring depth — Anze Kopitar was scoreless for the ninth straight game and Justin Williams has one goal in his last six games — and they've been exposed by opponents but can't make adjustments.

"I thought we made some good decisions, but the few bad decisions, they ended up coming back at you and they had scoring chances off it," Murray said. "So we just have to get on board with everybody and do the right thing for the 60 minutes and it looks like that's the only way we're going to break through on this thing right now."

Reaves gave the Blues the lead for good at 14:16 of the second period. Chris Porter threw the puck at the net, where it bounced off Philip McRae — son of former NHL player Basil McRae — and off Quick. Reaves scored his second NHL goal on the rebound.

Steen provided an insurance goal with 64 seconds left in the period. Brad Boyes fought off Doughty to get the puck to Steen, who scored from the inner edge of the circle and triggered a chorus of boos from the 17,932 fans who have — with reason — grown tired of watching the Kings lose at home.

The homestand ends Saturday, but the losing might not.

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen

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