Devils visit Kings in matchup of last-place teams
Six years after meeting in the Stanley Cup Finals, the last-place teams in both conferences will get together Thursday night when the Los Angeles Kings host the New Jersey Devils at Staples Center.
The Kings (10-17-1) have already fired John Stevens as head coach and replaced him with Willie Desjardins, but he hasn't turned things around either. Stevens was let go on Nov. 4 after the Kings went 4-8-1 to start the season. They've gone 6-9-0 under Desjardins and have yet to win three in a row under either coach.
The Devils (9-12-5) are 0-3-3 over the past six games to fall to the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
New Jersey coach John Hynes resorted to benching leading scorer Taylor Hall for nearly eight minutes late in the second period of a 5-1 loss to the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning on Monday night after Hall's turnover in his own zone led to the fourth goal by the Lightning.
"Sometimes, you've got to take your lumps and try and come back and play better," Hall told reporters afterward.
Hynes wouldn't commit to a starting goalie against the Kings.
Keith Kinkaid allowed four goals on 20 shots against Tampa Bay before he was replaced by Cory Schneider to start the third period.
Kincaid is still second in the NHL with three shutouts, but has allowed four goals in each of his past five outings for an .872 save percentage. He posted his only shutout last season against the Kings at Staples Center on March 17.
Schneider, who the Kings got to know well when he played for the Vancouver Canucks from 2008-13, is 0-5-0 in five starts this season with a 4.19 goals-against average and .862 save percentage.
The Devils are expected to have winger Jesper Bratt back in the lineup after he missed the Tampa Bay game with an illness. Bratt, who missed the first 13 games with a broken jaw, has nine points (two goals, seven assists) in 12 games.
New Jersey entered Wednesday ninth in the NHL with an 82 percent penalty-kill rate, and the Devils will be up against a Los Angeles team that's 4-for-37 on the power play over its past 14 games.
The Kings have struggled on the penalty kill during that stretch as well, owning a 65.1 percent success rate. They didn't allow any goals during 5-on-5 play against the visiting Arizona Coyotes on Tuesday, but gave up a power-play goal and a short-handed one in the 2-1 loss.
"That's not the area that's hurting us," Desjardins said of 5-on-5 play. "It's the special teams that are hurting us."
The Kings showed some life in the final minutes against the Coyotes, getting a goal from defenseman Alec Martinez to spoil the shutout, but it was too little too late as they dropped to 0-13-0 this season when trailing at the start of the second period.
"We just got to play a lot more minutes like we did the last five to seven minutes (against Arizona)," Kings leading scorer Anze Kopitar said. "You can tell there was desperation there. You know you've just got to play like that for 60 minutes."
Updated December 6, 2018