Kings shrinking back from expectations

How fine is the line between making the playoffs and not?

What is the line that separates the expectation that goals will go in, that good things will happen, from simple relief that they do?

Those are the questions the Kings ponder as this most curious, most crucial of seasons unfolds for them.

The Kings want to be where evolving teams aspire to be: expecting to be in the playoffs, expecting to be a factor in the spring, expecting to be held to a higher standard.

Yet having arrived at this threshold, the Kings seem to have shrunk from those expectations this season.

On Thursday, they gave up a goal 24 seconds into the first period, another 1:25 into the second period and then fell short after a furious charge in the third period, losing 4-2 to the NHL-leading Minnesota Wild.

The loss was the Kings’ third straight and dropped them below the playoff Mendoza Line in the Western Conference.

“Right now you kind of feel it’s just kind of stuck,” Lombardi told in an interview in his office at the team’s practice facility before Thursday’s game.

“I don’t think anybody feels we’re taking the step we need to take.”

On the plus side of the ledger, the Kings have created a culture of defensive responsibility under head coach Terry Murray that had long been missing from the franchise. They were fourth overall in goals allowed and eighth on the penalty kill.

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