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Looking ahead, Kings take loss to Coyotes in stride

L.A. falls to Phoenix, 3-1. Recently acquired defenseman Robyn Regehr set to join team in practice Wednesday.

April 02, 2013|By Helene Elliott

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GLENDALE, Ariz. There was no anguish in the Kings' locker room after their 3-1 loss to the Phoenix Coyotes on Tuesday, no gnashing of their remaining teeth as they ended a five-game trip with a commendable 3-1-1 record.

"We could have won every game. We played well enough to win every game," Coach Darryl Sutter said. "That's the way it goes."

The difference on Tuesday was a 39-save performance in goal from ex-King Jason LaBarbera, who was beaten only by a shot by Justin Williams that deflected off Phoenix defenseman Michael Stone at 12:12 of the second period.

The Kings could have gone to the net more, sure.

"We had a lot of shots, created quite a bit of chances. We just didn't finish," center Anze Kopitar said. "We didn't play poorly, but you've got to finish."

They could have made better decisions on defense, too. But instead of looking back and moping the Kings had every reason to look ahead to Wednesday, when defenseman Robyn Regehr — likely their only major acquisition before Wednesday's noon Pacific time trade deadline — is expected to practice with them for the first time.

Their agreement to give the Buffalo Sabres second-round draft picks in 2014 and 2015 for Regehr was contingent on him passing a physical. He arrived in Los Angeles on Tuesday and passed all the exams.

Regehr's arrival will push someone out of the lineup. The prime candidate is Alec Martinez, because Sutter said Tuesday morning Keaton Ellerby had been "awesome" as Willie Mitchell's stand-in — and that was before Martinez's minus 3 performance against Phoenix. Adding Regehr also created a crowd on defense that General Manager Dean Lombardi thinned by trading Davis Drewiske to the Montreal Canadiens for a fifth-round pick in this year's entry draft.

Drewiske played only nine games last season and none during the Kings' Stanley Cup run but they included his name among those inscribed on the Cup. In 20 games this season he had a goal, four points, a plus-3 defensive rating and 14 penalty minutes.

Regehr is similar in style to Mitchell, who recently underwent a second surgery on the knee he injured during the lockout. The Kings had assumed Mitchell wouldn't play this season because of problems he experienced after his first operation. That's now a fact.

Mitchell's agent, Mike Liut, told The Times' Lisa Dillman the latest procedure was intended to clean up some debris and said Mitchell should be ready for next season. For the rest of this season the Kings will rely on the rugged Regehr to boost their penalty killing and hold opposing forwards accountable.

"He's an identity player and that's why he's sought-after because he's a top character guy and he understands his role as a team player and he's all the good things that don't get noticed," said Sutter, who coached Regehr when both were employed by the Calgary Flames.

The Kings fell behind in the first period Tuesday after Ellerby lost a puck battle behind the net and Kyle Chipchura sent the puck into the slot for defenseman Keith Yandle, who beat Jonathan Quick with a wrist shot at 11:02.

Williams' attempted centering pass from the corner hit Stone and eluded LaBarbera to bring the Kings even at 12:12, but the Coyotes took a 2-1 lead in the second period after Matthew Lombardi took a backhander that found space inside the far post at 11:05. Yandle gave Phoenix an insurance goal with a shot from a sharp angle at 17:07 of the third period.

Quick said he saw every goal and said on the last one, "I just read it wrong." Asked if he felt his game is at the level it needs to be, he hedged.

"I would say everybody has room for improvement," said Quick, whose save percentage of .896 is well off last season's .929. "Whether we were undefeated all season long we'd still have room for improvement."

Regehr should improve their penalty killing and defensive-zone presence. "You're really in a fight for a playoff spot," Sutter said, "and somebody who's been through those types of battles is going to help us."

helene.elliott@latimes.com

Twitter: @helenenothelen

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