Kings playing with emotion heading into meeting with Canadiens

The Montreal Canadiens and Los Angeles Kings have been heading in opposite directions since October, and their paths likely won’t change course over the final full month of the regular season.

You couldn’t tell by peeking inside the locker rooms, however.

The Kings are set to host the Canadiens on Thursday night, just one day after officially trading one of their all-time most popular players, veteran goalie Jonathan Quick, in an attempt to shore up the position for their late-season run.

Word began to circulate of the trade shortly after a 6-5 shootout win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday, taking much of the joy out of the victory.

The Canadiens, meanwhile, have won three of four following their 3-1 victory at the San Jose Sharks on Tuesday.

Montreal coach Martin St. Louis said his players are having loads of fun, they’re engaged and playing hard for each other.

“Walk in the halls, you can feel it,” St. Louis said. “You hear the music playing and stuff, and I don’t know if from the stands you’re able to catch some glimpses of the bench, (but) guys are having fun on the bench.”

Even when a player makes a miscue, teammates have continued the encouragement, both on the bench and the ice.

“Guys are tapping each other on the pads and next line is trying to pick the team up, or keep doing what we’re doing,” St. Louis said. “It’s really a good vibe, and that’s what you want and that’s what we’re trying to build.”

The win against the Jets on Tuesday gave the Kings a 2-2-1 mark on the trip, but it was a solemn plane ride home.

While the team was still packing their bags after the win in Winnipeg, players began learning that the Kings had traded the 37-year-old Quick, a conditional 2023 first-round draft pick and a 2024 third-round draft pick to the Columbus Blue Jackets for fellow goalie Joonas Korpisalo and defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov.

Quick backstopped the Kings to Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player in the 2012 run.

That leaves forward Anze Kopitar and defenseman Drew Doughty as the two remaining players from the Stanley Cup teams.

Kopitar showed he’s not slowing down against the Jets, producing the second four-goal game of his NHL career.

“Any shot had a chance,” Kings coach Todd McClellan said. “He had four, but he could have had six, so we’re really happy for him. Great leadership is stepping up and pulling us through at the back end of a trip when it doesn’t look real good.”

Without naming them, McClellan said there are still other players on the team that need to step up their games.

“We just don’t have enough guys going right now,” he said. “That’s got to change for the next 20 games.”

McLellan said he shouldn’t need to remind his players what the calendar says.

“It’s March hockey now,” McLellan said. “It’s not November or December hockey. It’s fast and the games are moving and you’ve got to be able to move.”

–Field Level Media