Kings continue challenging run in Las Vegas

The Kings will take up yet another gauntlet Saturday when they travel to Vegas to throw down with the Golden Knights for the second time in two weeks.

Since the Kings delivered a rousing 4-2 home victory on Dec. 27 to close within three points of Vegas for first place in the Pacific Division, the Golden Knights have earned points in their four subsequent matches, including their current three-game winning streak.

The Kings continued punching with heavyweights, though they’ve split four games to lose a bit of ground in the standings since.

Most recently, they slipped against the vaunted Boston Bruins, who were outshot by the Kings but managed to win their league-best 30th game through a combination of exploiting errors and making fortuitous bounces count. They took advantage of overcommitment along the wall on one goal, scored off a deflected pass during a power play, tipped a puck in after a failed rush and capitalized on a flummoxed defense that sold out behind the net rather than protecting the low slot to net a late insurance marker.

“Really good teams take advantage of those moments. I think we’re becoming that. We’re not quite there yet, but we can do it,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said.

When winger Kevin Fiala was asked if Boston’s opportunism and overall dominance this season could be an example for the Kings, Fiala downplayed the gap between his club and the Bruins.

“We’re in the middle of the season, and I don’t think there’s any separation at all,” Fiala said.

Fiala on Thursday was named as the Kings’ solitary representative for the NHL’s All-Star weekend, and he has scored four points in his past four outings entering Saturday’s matchup with Vegas.

“He brings a dynamic that’s a little bit different from a lot of the ingredients that we have on our team. We brought in, the year prior, a bunch of trusting players that were, and still are, very good,” said McLellan, referring to Viktor Arvidsson, Phillip Danault and Alex Edler. “Kevin’s a little bit more of a gambler and that’s what makes it a little bit different. When he’s going, which is most nights, he’s dangerous and we’re fortunate to have his offensive instincts, his playmaking and his competitiveness.”

Fiala wasn’t the only King garnering honors Thursday. Defenseman Brandt Clarke was adorned with a gold medal after aiding Canada’s bid to repeat at the World Junior Championship. Clarke finished with eight points in seven tournament games. He picked up two assists in the final against Czechia, including one on the game-winning goal in overtime.

“To win a championship under that type of scrutiny, in Canada, there’s a ton of pressure on those kids, and he was a big part of it,” McLellan said. “We were glued to the TV, watching our prospects and other prospects, and I couldn’t be happier for him.”

Though there were reports in the blogosphere attributing to unnamed sources that Clarke would remain with the Kings for the rest of the year earlier this season, Clarke was loaned Friday back to his junior club, the Barrie Colts, for the remainder of their campaign.

Additionally, the Kings placed forward Trevor Moore on injured reserve. He and winger Arthur Kaliyev will be sidelined for Saturday’s game at a minimum and should be considered doubtful for Monday’s matchup with Edmonton.

The rest of the Kings will be focused on Vegas, which after its first non-playoff season ever last year has returned with a vengeance. On the injury front, the Golden Knights had nowhere to go but up from last season’s infirmary environment, but were still missing a number of key players last week against the Kings.

Top center Jack Eichel returned to the lineup Thursday, notching three points in a decisive victory over Pittsburgh. Eichel leads Vegas in plus-minus rating as well as in scoring on a per-game basis, though fellow pivot Chandler Stephenson has been the team’s top producer by volume with 40 points in 41 games.

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Winger Jonathan Marchessault (lower-body) may also be an option against the Kings on Saturday; he last played Dec. 21. Defensemen Shea Theodore (leg) and Zach Whitecloud (knee) remain out, and Vegas has sustained a couple fresh injuries on the blue line. Former King Alec Martinez (foot) has not played since the first period of the match against the Kings on Dec. 27 and Daniil Miromanov (foot) has not seen a shift since he blocked a shot in a New Year’s Eve victory over the Nashville Predators.


When: 7 p.m. Saturday

Where: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas

TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/iHeart Radio

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