High scoring Kings prepare to face the Wild

An eventful night on the ice gave way to some developments away from the playing surface for the Kings, and their four-game home stand just got started.

Between Saturday’s thrilling 5-4 victory over the Florida Panthers and Tuesday’s matchup with the Minnesota Wild, the Kings learned that Florida winger Matthew Tkachuk was suspended two games for inserting his stick blade into goalie Jonathan Quick’s mask near the final horn Saturday. Several Kings were incensed by Tkachuk’s sneaky aggression, but said they’d leave it to the NHL to mete out punishment.

Matthew Tkachuk appears to poke his stick into the mask of Jonathan Quick and chaos ensues shortly after.

— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) November 6, 2022

The Kings also assigned center Quinton Byfield to the American Hockey League’s Ontario Reign, for what amounts to a de facto conditioning assignment after an illness sidelined the 20-year-old pivot, who was 2020’s second overall pick.

“He lost a lot of weight and he’s going to need to get strong again. He’s going to need some time to recover,” Coach Todd McLellan said.

That leaves two-thirds of the newly formed third line on the shelf, with Alex Iafallo out indefinitely due to a lower-body injury.

Those absences haven’t stopped the Kings from piling up goals as they’ve scored the third most in the NHL this season, although their rank drops to 11th on a per-game basis. Yet that’s barely kept their heads above water from a points percentage standpoint and they have a negative goal differential. Only the reeling Columbus Blue Jackets and Ducks have ceded more goals this season than the Kings.

“We’re trying to rein it in a little bit more and be better defensively, but at the same time, in the same breath, we’re scoring more,” McLellan said. “We’ll see. We’re our own team right now, we’re figuring it out.”

The Kings have surrendered four or more goals in nine of their first 14 games. They’ve won just three of those games, including the victory over Florida and a 7-6 track meet against the Wild in Minnesota on Oct. 15.

“Are we going to be a high-event team every night? We’d better keep scoring five,” McLellan said. “If we’re going to be a high-event team and not put four or five up on the board, then we’ve got to fix some things.”

Forward Trevor Moore, who notched a goal and an assist Saturday, attributed the Kings’ newfound prolific scoring to increased depth and greater confidence among younger players. McLellan also pointed out that in the early going, scoring seemed to be up around the NHL, though that could correct itself in time.

“Fours are popping up all over the place, so the team that can get to four and really check well has a chance at the championship, I believe, right now, if it stays this way,” McLellan said.

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Whether or not there’s any regression to the mean Tuesday remains to be seen, as the Wild are another playoff qualifier from last season that has struggled defensively at times. They’ll confront the Kings, who have given up more goals per game than all but five other teams. Minnesota lies only two positions ahead of them and also lugs a negative goal differential into the match. The Wild allowed 20 goals in its first three games, all of which were losses, but has yielded a much more respectable 2.5 goals per game since.

Minnesota is led by winger Kirill Kaprizov, who has 13 points in 11 games in 2022-23 and 13 points in 12 career appearances against the Kings. The Wild reconfigured its lines after it traded winger Kevin Fiala to the Kings, and again after second-liner Jordan Greenway sustained a shoulder injury in the season opener. Greenway appears set to return to action, and will likely flank Joel Eriksson-Ek along with former Fiala linemate Matthew Boldy on Tuesday.

Minnesota at Kings

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday

Where: Arena

TV/Radio: ESPN+; Hulu/IHeartRadio (English); Tu Liga 1330 (Spanish)

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