Kings look to finish perfect homestand against Detroit

With a perfect homestand in their sights and some eye-popping fancy stats in their pockets, the Kings will host the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday in their last home game until Nov. 22.

The Kings have reeled off three consecutive victories, each by one goal, as part of a stretch where they’ve won six games and earned points in seven of their past nine matches. But going inside the numbers, those victories may have been more decisive than their razor-thin margins suggest.

Since Oct. 25, Natural Stat Trick’s advanced statistics indicate the Kings have ranked third league-wide in five-on-five Corsi-for percentage and Fenwick-for percentage, two widely utilized delineators of possession.

“I feel like we’ve controlled the game,” Kings winger Kevin Fiala said. “We’re just playing 60 minutes over the last few games and it’s very nice to see. We just have to keep it up.”

Additionally, the Kings have led the NHL in five-on-five expected goals-for percentage over their recent surge, an indicator that smoother sailing may be on the horizon. While the power play has done little to augment such strong play at even strength, the Kings could get a boost there or, more likely, from a key performer whose production has dried up recently.

Winger Adrian Kempe, who led the Kings with 35 goals last season and signed a four-year contract extension worth $22 million over the summer, has gone goalless in his past six games and pointless in his past five. Yet he has put 20 shots on net over the five most recent contests, four more than any other King, and that doesn’t include the various instances in which he has dinged posts and crossbars.

“He had numerous opportunities to score, I think he had two or three pieces of metal tonight,” Kings coach Todd McLellan said after Thursday’s 2-1 win over Chicago. “When you’re Adrian and you’re counted on, there are some expectations on you to score and finish. And when it’s not quite going well for you, you have to be able to put that aside and play all the other parts of the game.”

Though Kempe experienced several stretches earlier in his career where he would blend into the background offensively, his 2021-22 campaign elevated expectations and established him as a prolific scorer. Former Ducks winger Teemu Selanne, a natural scorer if there ever were one, subscribed to what he called the “ketchup bottle theory.” If nothing is coming out, keep pounding away at the bottom and soon enough the goals will all flow out at once, Selanne posited.

While McLellan was unfamiliar with the Finnish Flash’s philosophy, he sounded ready to subscribe to his newsletter when it came to Kempe breaking out of his funk.

“Sure, I’m gonna buy it now,” McLellan said with a smile. “We’ve talked about five chances, maybe, and two or three posts tonight. If he didn’t have that, we’d be going, ‘Man, Adrian’s not even creating anything.’ He’s creating, he’s getting looks, he’s getting opportunities and chances. Keep swinging the bat, and you’re going to hit the ball eventually.”

Kempe, 26, is hardly alone among Kings players who hit their stride firmly into their 20s. Detroit, on the other hand, has expedited its rebuild with players who have made an impact shortly after their draft year. Though they’ve taken a step back thus far this season, defenseman Moritz Seider and winger Lucas Raymond were among last year’s top rookies, with Seider taking home the Calder Trophy. Defenseman Simon Edvinsson, 19, came to North America from Sweden and has been dominating at the American Hockey League level for Detroit’s affiliate in Grand Rapids, Mich.

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Former Kings draft pick Dominik Kubalik and Detroit captain Dylan Larkin share the team lead in scoring with 16 points apiece. Kubalik was one of several pieces Detroit added over the summer, as were former Kings defenseman Olli Maatta and goalie Ville Husso, who has earned the gig in goal over incumbent Alex Nedeljkovic.

Detroit at Kings

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Where: Arena

TV/Radio: Bally Sports West/IHeartRadio

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