The Los Angeles Kings aim to record their second win in as many contests under interim head coach Jim Hiller when they open a four-game road trip against the Buffalo Sabres on Tuesday.
The Kings followed up a blistering 20-7-4 start to the season by inexplicably losing 14 of 16 games (2-8-6). They briefly halted that skid with a 4-2 road win against the Nashville Predators on Jan. 31, however the club fired coach Todd McLellan two days later.
Los Angeles returned from the All-Star break and turned in a comprehensive 4-0 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Saturday.
“We’ve had a tough stretch, so we’re just trying to get back to where we were,” Hiller said. “This isn’t about necessarily (doing anything) new. It’s just getting back there, and (Saturday) was a good step.”
Quinton Byfield collected two goals and an assist on Saturday, boosting his totals to four of each during his five-game point streak.
“It’s all about confidence,” Byfield said. “It’s been building the whole year. When you got it going, you kind of know you’ve got it going, and it feels nice. Just being able to be patient, see plays with the puck and be able to know I can make those plays is important for me.”
Byfield notched an assist in Los Angeles’ 5-3 setback at home to Buffalo on Jan. 24. Captain Anze Kopitar, Adrian Kempe and Pierre-Luc Dubois each scored in the first period for the Kings before the Sabres responded with four unanswered goals.
Buffalo followed that with a 5-2 road win against the San Jose Sharks on Jan. 27, only to return from its break with a pair of puzzling one-goal performances.
Tage Thompson scored the Sabres’ lone goal in a 2-1 loss to the Dallas Stars on Feb. 6.
Captain Kyle Okposo was credited with Buffalo’s lone tally in Saturday’s 3-1 setback to St. Louis after he was the last member of his team to touch the puck following a botched clearing attempt by the Blues.
As one might expect, Sabres coach Don Granato was none-too-pleased with the team’s performance on Saturday.
“We need to elevate work ethic, compete level, specifically to the net. Period,” Granato said. “We didn’t go to the net. I don’t think we were willing to work. We didn’t work hard enough to the front of the net.”
Buffalo’s JJ Peterka collected two goals and an assist in the previous encounter versus the Kings. He leads the team with 18 goals this season.
Los Angeles could see the return of Viktor Arvidsson during its four-game road trip, and perhaps as soon as Tuesday. The forward has been sidelined since undergoing back surgery, however he returned to practice last week.
Arvidsson recorded 59 points (26 goals, 33 assists) in 77 games last season, including three (one goal, two assists) in the Kings 5-2 romp over the Sabres on Feb. 13.