Los Angeles Kings coach Terry Murray credits newcomer Ryan Smyth(notes) for the team’s fast start, saying the veteran winger has helped ignite a once-struggling offense and provide leadership on the ice.
Smyth will now try and help the team solve its road woes from last season.
In the opener of a six-game road trip, Smyth looks to lead the Kings to a third straight victory Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues.
Los Angeles (2-1-0) acquired Smyth in a trade with Colorado this summer and the 15-year veteran is making an immediate impact.
Through three games, Smyth has three goals and three assists as part of a line that has already combined for 18 points (7 goals, 11 assists).
“It takes a couple of veterans like Ryan Smyth to set the example,” Murray said. “It’s only three games in, but you can see some of the stuff he brings. The younger guys are watching and doing the same.”
With the top line leading the way, Los Angeles is one of the highest-scoring teams in the NHL with 15 goals. This is quite a turnaround from last season, when the Kings scored the third-fewest goals in the league with 207.
“The big thing is that we’re communicating in practice and obviously it’s leading out into the game situation,” said Smyth, who had a goal and two assists in three games against the Blues in 2008-09. “It’s a good mix and things are going good right now.”
Keeping it up on the road won’t be easy.
The Kings had the league’s sixth-worst road record last season at 16-22-3 while losing 13 of their final 16 games away from Los Angeles. They’ve also had little success in St. Louis lately, dropping 10 of 13 there.
Los Angeles split two meetings in St. Louis in 2008-09 and went 3-1-0 against the Blues on the season. Goaltender Jon Quick(notes) made his only start of the series in the loss, saving 21 shots in a 2-0 defeat.
To continue their strong start, the Kings may need to clean up some defensive breakdowns that are being overshadowed by the strong offensive play. Quick has a 4.34 goals-against average, and Los Angeles has already yielded 13 goals while killing only four of 11 opponents’ power-play opportunities.
The Blues (2-1-0) went 0 for 3 on the power play in Thursday’s 4-2 loss to Atlanta after going 4 for 9 in winning their first two games over Detroit in Sweden.
St. Louis has trailed by two goals in all three games, and finally paid for it against the Thrashers.
“It’s going to bite you,” said Keith Tkachuk(notes), who had a goal and an assist and topped 400 points with the Blues. “You’ve got to get yourself ready to play and find a way to motivate yourself to go out and play within the system that we’ve played in the second half of both games in Sweden.”
Goalie Chris Mason(notes) had a sluggish performance Thursday, allowing two goals in the first 10 minutes and finishing with 18 saves on 21 shots. He hopes to bounce back against the Kings, against whom he’s 5-2-0 with one tie, a 1.66 GAA and four shutouts lifetime.