, Newburyport, MA


February 7, 2013

NHL teams find it tough to repeat as elite


The Kings may be the most disappointing of them all. The defending champs are in the midst of a rugged schedule of playing eight of nine games on the road. They hope they can ride out the rough patch without falling much more behind, before opening a stretch of five straight home games and 10 of 12 overall starting March 4. Like the Rangers, the Kings simply can’t score. Toss out Jeff Carter’s four goals, and the Kings only have 15 this season.

Mike Richards only has one goal and the Kings also are struggling on the power play. Through Tuesday, Los Angeles was 13th in the Western Conference with eight points, only two more than the last-place Calgary Flames.

“It’s the time where we have to put together a string of wins,” Richards said, “and more or less build confidence.”

Where the teams finish, of course, doesn’t really matter, as long as they make the playoffs. That’s the way hockey is these days. The Kings were the No. 8 seed last season, after all, and the Devils were No. 6 in the East. The Flyers, back in 2010, knocked out the Rangers for a playoff spot on the last day of the 2010 season, then went all the way to the Stanley Cup finals as a No. 7 seed.

So, if you make it in, there’s always a chance things can turn. And there’s certainly enough talent on all three teams to do so.

But something needs to change soon, or they’ll continue to be on the outside looking in.

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