Despite a last-place finish in 2008-09, the Los Angeles Kings had high hopes for another productive season from their defense. So far, the defense has failed to live up to those hopes.
The Kings host the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, looking for a better defensive effort and their fifth straight win in the series.
Los Angeles finished at the bottom of the Pacific Division for the second straight season in 2008-09, but allowed a respectable 2.76 goals per game -- 11th in the NHL.
The Kings signed Rob Scuderi in the offseason less than a month after he helped Pittsburgh win the Stanley Cup, with the expectation he would further improve a defense anchored by 19-year-old Drew Doughty and veteran Sean O'Donnell.
However, after giving up six goals in its season-opening loss to Phoenix, Los Angeles (1-1-0) suffered another defensive breakdown against San Jose on Tuesday, blowing a 4-0 lead before holding on to win 6-4 after goals in the final six minutes by Teddy Purcell and Davis Drewiske.
The near-collapse didn't bother everyone.
"These are games that a year ago, I don't think we would have won, being up 4-0 and blowing it in the third," captain Dustin Brown said. "Once they scored that fourth goal, I think last year it would have gone the other way."
The Kings, who had the league's seventh-best penalty-killing percentage last season, gave up goals on each of San Jose's four power-play chances.
After two tough games, goaltender Jon Quick is hoping to rebound against Minnesota. He was 3-0-0 with a 1.95 goals-against average last season versus the Wild. The Kings also figure to get some help from the return of O'Donnell, who was suspended for the first two games of the season.
Thursday begins a five-game road trip for the Wild (1-1-0), who are coming off their first win of the season and first victory for coach Todd Richards.
Minnesota rallied with three third period goals to beat Anaheim 4-3 in overtime Tuesday. Andrew Brunette scored the game-winner 3:08 into the extra session on a 4-on-3 power play, while free-agent acquisition Martin Havlat assisted on all three of the regulation goals.
The Wild allowed just two shots on goal in the third period.
"In the third, even though we were down three goals, we were playing a lot better defense than we did in the first two," said center Mikko Koivu, who scored his first goal of the season. "Then you get the goals, you get the guys going in front of the net, and that's the way you've got to get the goals."
Minnesota, which will face three 2008-09 playoff teams on this trip, is uncertain whether Pierre-Marc Bouchard will be available. Bouchard, who had 46 points in 71 games last season, was pulled from Tuesday's lineup because he said the headaches he has been suffering for a few weeks have gotten worse.
"He came to Todd after the morning skate and indicated he hadn't slept well and still wasn't feeling well," general manager Chuck Fletcher said. "We made the obvious decision to pull him out of the lineup and at this point will seek out some medical solution."
The Wild were outscored 14-7 by the Kings last season, losing three games in regulation and another in a shootout. Kings center Anze Kopitar, who has two goals and three assists in the first two games of this season, had three goals against Minnesota in the 2008-09 season series.