Hyped Leafs take on first-place Kings
Sunday, October 22 at 7:31 PM (EDT)
TORONTO -- The Toronto Maple Leafs may lead the league in hype, but the Los Angeles Kings are the only NHL team without a regulation loss.
After the Maple Leafs were picked as Stanley Cup favorites this past week by two betting sites, they responded by losing 6-3 to the Senators on Saturday night in Ottawa.
The Kings, meanwhile, were defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 6-4 in Columbus on Saturday to remain the only NHL team without a loss in regular time.
The Maple Leafs (6-2-0) and the Kings (6-0-1) will meet Monday night at the Air Canada Centre and Toronto will have revenge on its mind from L.A.'s visit last season.
The Kings defeated the Leafs 7-0 at the ACC on Nov. 8.
"They smacked us around," Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said after practice Sunday. "But I also think you need lessons in your life. When everything goes good all the time, that's not good for you. You need a good tightening every once in a while. I thought we got it (Saturday) night.
"We have the best team in the league coming in, they have not lost yet, they have (a) real good back end, good forwards, playing well, good goaltending, it's going to be a real challenge for us and that's what we need. We need a real challenge. We did not handle it really well (Saturday) night."
The Kings seem surprised by their fast start.
"No matter how good your team is, you never really envision that," defenseman Drew Doughty said. "You can feel like you have the best team in the world and you probably think you're going to lose at least one or two games in the first eight or nine games."
Right winger Dustin Brown, who had an empty-net goal and three assists on Saturday, agreed: "I don't think you ever think (that). It's the NHL. You don't expect to come out like that."
The Kings have won six of their first seven games for the first time and they have tied their longest streak to start a season without a regulation loss. They were 4-0-3 to open the 1995-96 season.
Center Anze Kopitar, who had two goals Saturday that included the game-winner with 2:14 to play in the third period, and Brown, have taken advantage of the more upbeat tempo encouraged by new coach John Stevens.
Kopitar and Brown each has a team-leading 11 points, and each is plus-11, tied for first in the NHL. The statistics signify impressive turnarounds for each player.
Kopitar has equaled his points total to start the 2009-10 season, when he had a career-best 81 points, including 34 goals. He had 52 points last season and did not reach 11 points until his 19th game.
Brown hasn't had more than 36 points in a full season since 2011-12. Brown did not get 11th point last season until his 24th game.
Stevens had a reminder for his team despite the strong start.
"We have to reset every game here, and understand that we gave up four goals tonight," Stevens said after the game Saturday. "You usually don't win when you give up four goals, so we've got to learn from that. ... We told our guys, a win is a win, and I think the guys found a way to win."
The Kings are without center Jeff Carter, who is out indefinitely following surgery after he suffered a cut leg in the win over the Montreal Canadiens on Wednesday.
Center Brooks Laich has been signed and played his first NHL game Saturday since April 9, 2016. He played with the Washington Capitals and the Maple Leafs in the 2015-16 season.
The Kings feel that their good start will pay dividends later.
"The last three years I think we started 0-3," Brown said. "We, as a team, talked about having a good start because these are the types of games that add up and make a big difference toward the end of the year."
The Kings have the NHL's best goal differential at plus-13.
The Kings won 3-2 in a shootout when the teams played in Los Angeles last March.
Doughty has two goals and seven assists in 12 career games against the Maple Leafs.
"He's a hell of a player," Babcock said. "Can stickhandle in a phone booth. Great offensive instincts. He is as loose as they come when it comes to the game, it's competitive and he wants to win. Makes the big plays at the right moment."
Babcock wouldn't confirm that defenseman Calle Rosen, who skated with Connor Carrick at practice, will be back in the lineup after Andreas Borgman played the past two games.
Center Dominic Moore, who played in Ottawa, appears likely to remain in the lineup Monday on the fourth line.
The Maple Leafs announced Sunday that they have agreed to terms with defensemen Roman Polak to a one-year contract worth $1.1-million.
Polak, 31, has registered 23 goals and 92 assists in 634 career NHL games with the Maple Leafs, San Jose Sharks and St. Louis Blues.