EL SEGUNDO — Tyler Toffoli didn’t want to talk about the knee injury he had in 2016-17 that limited him to 63 games of the NHL season. But the Kings’ sixth-year center is pleased to talk about what’s going on for him and his team this season.
Toffoli scored just 16 goals and doled out 18 assists last season. That was after he scored 31 goals and had 27 assists the previous season, which was what Coach John Stevens intimates he can do on a regular basis.
Toffoli has 13 goals and six assists through 29 games and has been a key contributor during the Kings’ 18-8-3 start. They have 39 points, which has them tied with Nashville for the top spot in the Western Conference. The Predators reached the Stanley Cup Final a year ago while the Kings missed the playoffs.
Toffoli is loving every minute of their hot start.
“I feel pretty good,” he said before the Kings rallied to beat Minnesota 5-2 on Tuesday at Staples Center. “Obviously, when you’re playing with more confidence and you don’t have something in the back of your mind, I think your play becomes better.
“It’s been good so far. We’re winning games and we’re just going to keep going.”
Toffoli seems to know his game can get even better.
“I think it’s being more consistent and trying not to let your game slip,” said Toffoli, whose team puts its six-game winning streak on the line Thursday night at 7:30 against the Ottawa Senators (9-10-6) at Staples Center. “Just keep doing the little things that contribute to being successful and keep playing hard.”
Here’s the kicker that Stevens, like any coach, must love.
“When things need to be done on the ice, scoring big goals or making big plays, I want to be one of those guys,” said Toffoli, 25.
Toffoli did not have a point Tuesday, but he did take five shots on goal. When asked, Stevens wouldn’t classify this as any kind of comeback by Toffoli.
“I don’t know if I would term it a rebound season,” Stevens said. “I mean, his season was really affected by injury last season. But Tyler’s always been a very opportunistic scorer. And that line with (Jeff) Carter, (Tanner) Pearson, Toffoli is a line we’ve liked back since ’14.
“With Jeff going down with injury (cut leg) this year, I still think Tanner and Tyler have had some continuity. Their center man has changed a little bit. But our internal expectations of Tyler, that’s kind of who we think he is. We think he should be somewhere between a 25- and a…