John Stevens will return to the city where he started his head-coaching career Monday night when his Los Angeles Kings face the streaking Flyers at the Wells Fargo Center.
Now in his first year as the Kings’ head coach, Stevens was an associate coach when L.A. won Stanley Cup titles in 2012 and 2014. He coached the Flyers from 2006-09, compiling a 120-109-34 record before being replaced by Peter Laviolette.
Stevens, who still has a home in Sea Isle, downplayed his return.
“That question came up yesterday, and to be honest with you, we’re just looking at Philadelphia as a tough opponent,” he said after the Kings’ practice Monday morning. “The team is playing well right now.”
Stevens, 51, said he has “a lot of respect and fond ties to my time here. It sounds odd, but for my kids, this is home for them. For them, it’s like coming home because of the familiarity with the people here. Philadelphia is a great memory for my family, but the bottom line is we’re trying to get a win on the road against a team that’s playing well.”
Captain Claude Giroux is the only player on the current Flyers who played for Stevens when he was their head coach. He played parts of three seasons under Stevens.
“When I came in the league, he really kept me on my toes,” Giroux said after Monday’s morning skate at the Wells Fargo. “He pushed me to be a hard-working player, and he really helped me on my work ethic.”
Monday, Giroux and the Flyers will try to become the second team in NHL history to win seven straight immediately after a 10-game winless streak. Toronto did it in 1967 and won the Stanley Cup that year.
The Flyers have won their last two games by one goal. They are dominating play late in games, having outscored opponents, 9-1, after the second period. (They were outscored by a 14-2 margin after the second period during their 10-game skid.)
“I think we go into the third period and if it’s a tie game or we’re up a goal, we feel confident that if we play our game, we’re going to give ourselves a really good chance to win,” Giroux said. “We have to just keep that mindset.”
The Kings, who scored an early-season 2-0 win over the Flyers in Los Angeles, have lost three straight on their four-game road trip.
The Flyers are a “lot different than the team we saw in the first week of the season. … They’re a more complete team,” said Drew Doughty, the Kings’ outstanding defenseman.
As for the team’s recent skid, Doughty said, “You know what: I think we should have won two of the three games, no doubt in my mind. We did some real good things in a few of those games, and we did some things that made us blow the games. We learn from those mistakes.”
Stevens said the Flyers played well even during their 10-game losing streak, noting that five of those defeats went past regulation.
“I think they’ve really committed to keeping the puck out of their net and really focused on defense,” he said. “They don’t give up a lot five-on-five. … We just need a real good, sound team game ourselves.”
The Flyers will use the same lineup as last game, with goalie Brian Elliott making his eighth straight start. Backup goalie Michal Neuvirth was on the ice at the morning skate and is close to returning.
During the six-game winning streak, Elliott has a 1.48 goals-against average and a .949 save percentage. He was named the NHL’s No. 2 star of the week Monday after being the No. 3 star the previous week.
In his career against the Kings, Elliott is 5-6-0-2 with a 2.24 GAA and three shutouts. Jonathan Quick, who will start for the Kings, is 7-3-0-1 with a 1.64 GAA and two shutouts against the Flyers.
In five-on-five play, the Flyers have a 58-46 edge this season, and L.A. has outscored its opponents, 65-51. The Flyers have allowed the fewest five-on-five goals in the NHL, and L.A. is third. … Doughty has played in 280 straight games. … The Flyers have allowed just one power-play opportunity in each of the last three games. … The Kings are unbeaten in regulation (16-0-3) when scoring three or more goals in a game. … Ivan Provorov and Los Angeles’ Jake Muzzin are among the four NHL players with more than 70 hits and 70 blocked shots this season.