Kings center Mike Richards pushes the puck up the ice ahead of Coyotes center… (Matt York / Associated Press )
What happened after one half of the successful Jeff Carter-Mike Richards collaboration disappeared from the ice?
The impact on Richards and the Kings was not as dramatic as conventional wisdom predicted. Carter, who has a fractured foot, last played on Oct. 30 against the San Jose Sharks. Since then, Richards has eight points in seven games, including three goals.
Not only was there the loss of Carter, but there was the adjustment period with linemates Dwight King and Tyler Toffoli.
Toffoli has been held off the score sheet just once since he joined the Kings from the minors on Nov. 2.
"It's tough just getting familiar with who you are playing with — I think Toffoli's done a really good job, having a similar game to Jeff, just a little bit different," Richards said. "We've been doing a pretty good job of communication, making sure that we talk on the ice and when we get back to the bench. Knowing what each other are thinking on different plays."
The Kings are coming off a successful Eastern swing in which they swept the three New York-area teams (the Islanders, Devils and Rangers) for only the second time in franchise history. They did it without starting goalie Jonathan Quick, who was injured at Buffalo, the first game of the trip.
The Kings are 14-6-1, their best record through 21 games since the 1990-91 season. King had the game-winning goal against the Devils on Friday, and Toffoli did it versus the Rangers on Sunday, set up by Richards.
"He's just a natural goal scorer," Richards said of Toffoli. "He's kind of like Carts where he puts himself in the right situations and seems to find open space in their zone. I think he's getting more comfortable where at first he's a little bit quiet on the ice, which was tough to play with. Now he's starting to talk a lot more; now it's not just a one-way conversation."
King's goal was his sixth of the season, a career high, and a nice bounce back after a downturn last season. "He's so big and strong on the puck," Richards said. "I think once he starts moving his feet a little bit more, that's where he has success. Once he has the puck, he's tough to take the puck from, so he uses that to his advantage really well."
Kings goalie Ben Scrivens was named the league's No. 1 star for the week, not surprising considering he went 3-0-1, recording back-to-back shutouts at New Jersey and against the Rangers. He has not allowed a goal in 155 minutes and 2 seconds, going back to the second period against the New York Islanders on Thursday.
His goals-against average (1.24) and save percentage (.955) are the best in the league, and the Elias Sports Bureau said he is the first Kings goalie to record consecutive road shutouts in one season. He has three shutouts in five starts this season, all on the road.
"We all had that confidence in him before he even started that first game, that he could do the job just as well as [Quick] did," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "I'm not saying he's Quickie or anything like that, but he's played unbelievable for us. He's stolen games for us."
Select tickets will go on sale Tuesday at 10 a.m. for the outdoor game between the Kings and Ducks at Dodger Stadium on Jan. 25. Tickets are available at Ticketmaster.com and Ticketmaster.ca. The game is the first NHL regular-season game to be played outdoors in California.
VS. TAMPA BAY
Where: Staples Center.
On the air: TV: FS West; Radio: 1150.
Etc.: Tampa Bay is without star Steven Stamkos, who was leading the league in scoring before he broke his leg. The Lightning is No. 1 in the Eastern Conference with 28 points, which would leave it tied for the last playoff spot in the West. The Kings suffered their most one-sided defeat of the season at Tampa, losing 5-1 to on Oct. 15.