Olli Maatta’s defense helped the Kings climb the table – Press Enterprise

The Kings have an opportunity to extend their winning streak to six games on Monday when they host the Boston Bruins.

While tasked with playing three games in four nights, the Kings were energetic throughout their back-to-back set, which consisted of crucial wins over Ducks Friday and New York Islanders Saturday.

The Kings are second in the Pacific Division, three games behind Calgary, winners of 11 of their last 12 games, and three ahead of Vegas, which fell to NHL top team Colorado on Saturday.

“Everyone talks about a big game, but every game is a big game when you look at the table. Nobody wants to get into that rut that you’re going to lose three or four because you’re not in it anymore,” said Trent Yawney, the Kings assistant coach who has been running the bench while Todd McLellan was in COVID, according to the Protocols. “The game is ramped up, Boston are a good team, they are looking for points. We accept the challenge and have our hands full.”

While the Kings offseason acquisitions, rookie call-ups and the development of some players entering their prime give them a boost, they have also been helped by the resurgence of veteran defender Olli Maatta. He ran in an effective shutdown pairing with Matt Roy and they contributed to a penalty shootout that has not conceded a power play goal in the last four games.

Maatta, who won two Stanley Cups with the Pittsburgh Penguins and is in his ninth NHL season at 27, was acquired from Chicago prior to last season. He was immediately paired with Drew Doughty, but that experiment proved short-lived after Maatta struggled to find his footing. After improving in a third pairing role late last year, he found himself on shaky ground again at the start of this campaign, despite the high standards he holds himself to.

“Of course I wasn’t very happy with my first year. I definitely knew I could play better, and I could still play better,” Maatta said. “The work never stops. It just feels like you’re constantly going through ups and downs within a year or from season to season. You just can’t stop working, keep getting better, that’s the main thing.”

An injury to Alex Edler in December appeared to open a window for Maatta to re-establish himself as a full-time player, but a disruption to COVID protocols cut that opportunity.

Since his first game after leaving the logs, Maatta has earned a Plus 13 rating, placing him in the top 15 in the entire league for the span of January 8 to present. His brand ranks second with the Kings behind forward Trevor Moore, who has 19 points of his own at that stretch. Maatta’s rating is a testament to his defense as he didn’t score during that stretch.

“Olli Maatta has been really, really solid for us in the last 15, 20 games,” Yawney said. “He really anchored that second pair with Roy, that allowed us to continue to forge forward when we (Edler) lost.”

Maatta and Roy attributed their chemistry and success to the constant communication, both during and between games.

Roy was also consistent and defensive after scoring his first goal of the season on Saturday.


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