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Kings shuffle the deck after abysmal showing in Buffalo – Daily News

The feel-good vibes of the Kings’ coaching change proved ephemeral and they appeared to be seeking a spark from another set of personnel adjustments, this time to their forward lines, ahead of Thursday night’s game against the New Jersey Devils.

After shutting out archrival Edmonton, 4-0, on Saturday, the Kings hustled to Buffalo to watch the Super Bowl on Sunday and then gave up a touchdown to the Sabres on Tuesday in a 7-0 trouncing that doused the Kings’ first two-game win streak since December in whiteout.

“Obviously we don’t want to give up seven [goals] and not score any. Having a performance like that doesn’t feel great, but, again, we’ve got a great group of guys here,” defenseman Mikey Anderson said. “We’ve been going through it and guys have stuck together, so I don’t think there’s any concern about the group we have here.”

Newly promoted coach Jim Hiller and freshly hired assistant D.J. Smith reacted swiftly to an effort every bit as salty as a beef-on-weck sandwich in Buffalo. Kings blogger Zach Dooley reported that against the backdrop of some injury developments for the Kings, Hiller and Smith were overhauling the forward lines.

Incoming was Viktor Arvidsson (back). He hasn’t played an NHL game since late April, when the Kings were eliminated from last year’s playoffs. Outgoing was Carl Grundstrom, who sustained a lower-body injury on Tuesday and returned to Los Angeles, Dooley reported. Moving around were Kevin Fiala (up to the top line) and Adrian Kempe (down to the third line), with Arvidsson slotting into Fiala’s second-line spot and Arthur Kaliyev or Jaret Anderson-Dolan filling Grundstrom’s vacancy on the fourth line.

It was another tweak in a series of pulled strings and pushed buttons for a team in desperate need of sustained intensity as it will seek to avert its 15th loss in 20 games on Thursday.

“We had to find a way to bring emotion, and we didn’t, and it cost us,” forward Philip Danault said after the humiliation in Buffalo, which began inauspiciously from the first shift and unraveled further from there.

That statement might sound an alarm, given that 4½ years of former coach Todd McLellan’s efforts being flushed only charged the Kings up emotionally for one night. They could not simply pin their woes on inexperienced players or underperforming recent additions either.

Drew Doughty made perhaps the most egregious error in a lengthy chain of gaffes when his careless pass became a de facto primary assist for Buffalo winger Jordan Greenway’s first goal. Anze Kopitar posted not only the worst plus-minus rating of his career (minus-6) but the worst in a single-game rating ever for any Selke Trophy winner (he’s won the award twice), according to Sportsnet Stats.

Next up, Doughty, Kopitar and their colleagues will face the Devils. Like the Kings, they’ve accumulated 58 points to date in a campaign in which they had higher ambitions than duking it out for a wild-card spot. They find themselves just outside the playoff picture presently, while the Kings would have narrowly limboed into the postseason if it were to have started on Wednesday.

Jack Hughes had been an absolute force for New Jersey but he has missed 16 games this season, allowing Jesper Bratt to hang onto the team lead in scoring. Nico Hischier, a former No. 1 overall draft pick with a two-way game in the mold of Kopitar’s, has also missed 11 games, leaving him in a tie for third in points on the Devils with former King Tyler Toffoli.

The Devils are riding a modest three-game points streak, one that’s accentuated by something they’ve had very little of this year, good goaltending, as they’ve just barely climbed out of the bottom five league-wide in goals-against average. Vitek Vanecek lost 1-0 in overtime against Carolina before Nico Daws played, and won, both ends of a back-to-back set by stopping 57 of 60 shots against Nashville and Seattle.

KINGS AT DEVILS

When: Thursday, 4 p.m. PT

Where: Prudential Center, Newark, N.J.

TV: Bally Sports West

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