The Los Angeles Kings lost to the Edmonton Oilers again Tuesday night. Falling 3-1 in their second defeat to Edmonton in the last week.
It was a similar game to the the one last Thursday, a low scoring, low event game where the Kings couldn't beat Stuart Skinner.
A key anytime you're playing the Oilers is keeping their power play off the board, something the Kings were unable to do Tuesday.
"I’m not sure, they had the puck a lot and I think we defended well," said Viktor Arvidsson on the similarities between the two games against Edmonton. "But it came down to a power-play goal, that’s what it came down to."
The Kings have boasted a high-powered offense all season. But in the last four games, that offense has been lacking a bit. They have been as lethal and it's hurt them in both games against Edmonton and against the Calgary Flames last Tuesday.
"I think we should play a little bit more with the puck, but also we have to defend," said Arvidsson on what the team is lacking offensively. "We’ve had chances to score and we’ve got to bear down on them. It’s a little bit of both, I think."
Early in the year ahead of the Kings' first game against the Anaheim Ducks, Kings players made it clear that the Oilers were their biggest rival internally. Not their crosstown rivals.
And games like Tuesday, tightly contested physical affairs, only fuel that conflict.
"Yeah, obviously, this group went into the playoffs last year and played them and got heated in seven games," said Arvidsson on the growing rivalry. "It's good games and they're fun to play in."
The Kings were up 3-2 on the Oilers last year and have now played back-to-back tight games with them. There's also just one point separating the two in the standings. They're as tightly matched as two teams can be.
"Yeah, I think so," said Arvidsson on the two teams being evenly matched. "I think we play a little bit differently, both teams, it’s always tight and low scoring. We’ve got to keep an eye on that and try to score more goals than them."
The Kings are currently without key players in Kevin Fiala, Gabe Vilardi, Mikey Anderson and Alex Edler and it was clear the Kings lacked their presence on Tuesday. They especially missed Fiala and Vilardi on the power play, going 0-4 on the night.
"Yeah, I mean, I think the things that stands out tonight is special teams," said Sean Walker on the missing players. "Vilardi and Fiala, those are kind of key guys for us in that aspect. But again, on the backend, losing two solid defensemen like that isn't great for us. But, it's kind of something that we've dealt with before. So, next man up and do your job."
The Kings are very familiar with the Oilers, having played them more than any other team over the last 12 months. However, this is a different Kings team than the one that entered the postseason one year ago. And a different Edmonton team.
"Yeah, I think they have big solid defensemen on the back," said Walker on the Oilers being less of a run 'N' gun team than they were in the past. "They've added some pieces that have helped them, I think you look at their last three games, they've maybe only given up one goal. So, they're playing a really solid defensive game right now. So, we're going to have to find a way to crack them if we get that matchup in the first round."
With both Anderson and Edler out, Tobias Bjornfot returned to the lineup for just his eighth game this season. And his first since Feb. 23. Walker was his partner and liked what he saw from Bjornfot.
"I thought he was great tonight," said Walker. "Solid, made some good plays. A lot of talking between the two of us out there and he looked like he fit in."
Walker was quick to point out Fiala and Vilardi missing on the power play. But Todd McLellan was clear that their absence wasn't the problem on Tuesday.
"It’s not a lack of personnel, we just didn’t execute well." said McLellan on the power play.
To give up just four non empty net goals in two to the league's highest scoring team and still lose both games has to be frustrating. The Kings have gotten solid goaltending and created enough to score more than one goal, but just failed to finish.
It's that time of the year were you have to bear down for your chances and really grind out results.
"I think, one they’re really good hockey club, so we have to acknowledge that and they’ve made some changes that have improved their team," said McLellan on playing well against the Oilers five-on-five but losing twice. "So, frustration is going to be part of the game and we have to channel it a little bit better. Our special teams have to be better against theirs. This game was very reminiscent to the one in Edmonton. We got more to the net in Edmonton and probably had more scoring chances in Edmonton, but the team that scores first has a huge advantage. (In) Edmonton, the first one was near the end of the period, we were actually checking well and then the shorthanded one really cost us, so we lost the special teams in that situation. Here, our penalty kill did a pretty good job, but both of their goals were on clearing attempts that we weren’t successful on. 32 or 35 percent power plays make you pay for that and they did tonight."
A noticeable name on Tuesday was Rasmus Kupari. It's not the first time he's stood out recently as he's elevated his play down the stretch. As always, McLellan was quick to point out his high-end skating when asked about him postgame.
"I thought he had good legs and you need legs to fight through some of the checking," said McLellan. "He was skating well, he’s a good skater, so we tried some different things, some different combinations. This was the seventh game in 11 nights for our team. I thought we we were working hard but the gas tanks weren’t quite where they need to be, so it’s something we also have to consider as we move forward, making sure we got the right rest."
McLellan's mentioned the need for young players to bring a lot of energy and carry some of that workload for the team. And Kupari's done that over the last few works.
While it seems encouraging from the outside looking in that the Kings have played two tight games against the Oilers without a few key players. McLellan was quick to point out that there's no guarantee those players come back before a potential series against Edmonton. And it's even possible more players are out by then.
"That could be the case," said McLellan on if playing Edmonton tight with key players out gives the team confidence. "If we meet them in the playoffs, or whoever we play in the playoffs, we could be without those guys and three more, so it really doesn’t matter. It doesn’t. I know you guys want to ask me and I want to tell you, yeah it’d be great, but the lesson we learned last year is it doesn’t matter who’s out, it matters who’s in."