LA Kings: Austin Wagner ‘everyone happy to be home’

LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports)
LA Kings (Mandatory Credit: David Berding-USA TODAY Sports) /

After a successful road trip, Austin Wagner and the LA Kings are ready to return home to continue their push toward a playoff spot.

While they did lose both of their recent games in Minnesota, the LA Kings are still looking strong. Having earned points in eight of their last nine games, the LA Kings’ 9-7-4 mark is good enough for fifth in the Honda West division. Yet, while they would be eliminated from playoff contention if the season were to end today, the Kings are, as of Monday evening, two points out of second and three out of first.

Given the nature of the season with no inter-division games being played, it only takes a small winning streak to catapult from last to first — or, conversely, a small losing streak to fall to the bottom of the standings.

Determined not to be the latter, the LA Kings are working towards a playoff push. Even though their six-game winning streak came to an end on Friday, the silver-and-black are undeterred.

Falling behind 3-0 early in their Saturday night tilt in Minnesota, the LA Kings roared back to tie the game, only to lose in the last second of overtime. Still, if ever a regulation point was earned, it was on Saturday. And one of those goals was one of the breakaway variety by speedster Austin Wagner.

Following practice on Monday, Wagner spoke with the media about being back home after a lengthy road trip and what he and the team are preparing for the next game.

“I think after a long trip like that, everyone’s happy to be home and get some practice time,” the former Regina Pat noted. “Today, we just got the legs moving again, worked on a few things in the zone and on the forecheck and whatnot. We feel good today, and we’ll feel good tomorrow and going into our game on Wednesday.”

Speaking of the forecheck, it has been an area that has been a major improvement for the Kings as of late. Drew Doughty said this earlier in Monday’s media call, and the Kings speedy winger couldn’t help but agree.

“It’s come a long way so far,” Wagner added. “We just want to keep getting better at it every game, in and out, and yeah, I think it can be a focal point of our team’s game.

“The forecheck’s a huge part of our game, turning pucks over and making plays off that even.”

While he hasn’t been the most consistent player on his team thus far, Austin Wagner has been a slouch by any means.

After six goals in 65 games last season, the 23-year-old has three goals in just 16 games so far this season. That’s just under a quarter of the games he played last season, and he has already met the halfway mark of said total. With that said, though, Wagner, while dangerous with his speed, still needs to work on turning more scoring chances into goals. But hey, it’s still early in the season and lots of time for improvement.

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As of Wednesday, the LA Kings will be hosting three games in four nights at STAPLES Center. After Arizona on Wednesday, the silver-and-black entertain the St. Louis Blues on Friday and Saturday. And, like the rest of the club’s roster, the LA Kings will need Austin Wagner to be at his best.