|Kings look to snap slide vs. banged-up Rangers|
LOS ANGELES -- The Los Angeles Kings will attempt to snap a season-high six-game losing streak against the depleted New York Rangers on Sunday night at Staples Center.
After a hot start to the season, the Kings (24-17-5) find themselves outside of a Western Conference playoff spot because of the franchise's longest losing streak since Dec. 12-26, 2007, when Los Angeles lost eight straight games.
All the losses during the skid have been in regulation and the failure to collect any points since a win at Edmonton on Jan. 2 has lowered the mindset from competing for the Pacific Division title to securing a playoff spot.
With a veteran core that has won two Stanley Cup championships, there appears to be little panic during this slide but significant concern and frustration.
The Kings dropped a 2-1 decision to the Anaheim Ducks on Friday night at Honda Center as they continued to struggle to find offense, scoring one goal for the third consecutive game. Despite possessing the best statistical defense in the NHL, the Kings have sputtered offensively throughout January.
Los Angeles coach John Stevens assessed his team's mental state after the tough loss to its southern California rival.
"Guys are frustrated in the right way," Stevens said. "No excuses, you've got to suck it up and win hockey games right now. You've got to find ways to win.
"Sometimes, you get outplayed and you find ways to win, and sometimes you outplay the other team and they hang around. Bottom line is we've got to start winning hockey games."
Sitting outside playoff qualification is not that concerning to defenseman Alec Martinez. He related that in his time with the organization, the Kings have never been a dominant regular-season team and if they focus on what got the team off to the hot start, they will return to the postseason.
"We have been here before, I think it's like what John says," Martinez said. "If you just focus on the process instead of the result, then the result will take care of itself. If you just focus on your team game every night, then you're going to get your 96 to 100 points or whatever the historical data shows that you're going to be on the inside and sitting in a playoff spot."
New York (24-18-5) had a two-game winning streak snapped at the hands of the red-hot Colorado Avalanche in a 3-1 loss on Saturday afternoon in Denver. With five regulars out of the lineup, the Rangers were competitive throughout but could not prevent the Avalanche from winning their ninth straight game.
Already missing forwards Chris Kreider and Kevin Hayes, and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk and Marc Staal because of injury, New York lost Michael Grabner and his team-leading 20 goals to a bout with the flu.
Goaltender Henrik Lundqvist kept the Rangers in the game by making 34 saves, but the offense could only muster a power-play goal from winger Pavel Buchnevich as the Avalanche avenged a 4-2 loss in the season opener on Oct. 5 in New York.
Despite losing five times in the last eight games, the able-bodied Rangers were positive about the effort against the hottest team in the league and hope to build on it as they attempt to sweep the two-game season series. New York defeated Los Angeles 4-2 on Dec. 15 at Madison Square Garden.
"I loved our battle and compete with a lot of new faces in the lineup," Rangers captain Ryan McDonagh said. "I know we did not get the result, but we fought to the end. We can look at this as a positive step as we continue the road trip the right way."
Though Lundqvist got little support in the Colorado loss, he agreed with McDonagh about the team's compete level in Denver and hopes it extends to Sunday evening.
"We worked hard against a really good team that has a ton of confidence right now," Lundqvist said. "We came up a little short and had a couple of good looks at the end, but there are a lot of good things we can bring to (Sunday's) game against a pretty physical team.
"You can't find any excuses. It does not matter if you are missing two or 10 guys. The mentality is you go out and try to get the win."