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Game Day Preview #21, New York Islanders @ Los Angeles Kings

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We’re thankful for Anze Kopitar

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at New York Islanders Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: New York Islanders (6-8-4) @ Los Angeles Kings (10-9-1)

How to Watch and What to Watch For

Tomorrow night, I’m going to sit down at my kitchen table with my two fat cats and my traditional Dining Alone on the Holiday meal of tacos and whatever random cookies I have enough ingredients to make. And I’m going to ask my cats: “what are you thankful for?” and they are going to meow at me and try to eat my dinner. And if they could ask me what I was thankful for -- they can’t, of course, because they’re cats and also because they have no emotions other than hunger -- I would pet them gently on their fat, furry faces, and say: “I’m thankful for Anze Kopitar.”

That’s right, the Kings’ captain practiced on an actual line today and looks like he is ready to draw back into the lineup. While Kopitar instantly gives the Kings a huge boost, especially up the middle, he also skated alongside Dwight King and Trevor Lewis. Despite that being the Kings’ first line, look for them to take on more of a defensive role tonight, rather than being relied on to jumpstart scoring. With the Carter and Dowd lines performing so well, it doesn’t make sense to mix any of that up. Having Lewis on his line also gives the team another option to take faceoffs, depending on what effects, if any, Kopitar is still feeling from his injury.

Meanwhile, the Islanders had a late night in Anaheim, going into the fourteenth round of a shoot-out before defenseman Nick Leddy showed off his hands to win the game. The Islanders have been a bit of a mystery this year. They sit dead last in their division and have only won three of their last ten games. The loss of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen hurt them more than expected, and the big off-season signing of Andrew Ladd has been a bust so far. The former Jets captain has only three points in eighteen games and has been bumped down to the fourth line, with players known more for their physicality than their scoring touch. (And one of those players, Cal Clutterbuck, is a game-time decision and may not play.) The Islanders have been playing with the line blender a lot so far this season, so don’t be surprised if the lines look nothing like the below, particularly if they want to try to jump-start John Tavares, who hasn’t scored since November 3.

Projected Line Combinations:

Los Angeles Kings

King - Kopitar - Lewis

Pearson - Carter - Toffoli

Brown - Dowd - Setoguchi

Clifford - Shore - Nolan

Forbort - Doughty

Muzzin - Martinez

Gravel - Greene

Budaj

(Zatkoff)

New York Islanders

Bailey - Tavares - Beauvillier

Kulemin - Nelson - Strome

Lee - Quine - Chimera

Ladd - Cizikas - Clutterbuck

Leddy - Hamonic

Hickey - Boychuk

de Haan - Pelech

Halak

(Greiss)

Opposing Preview: Lighthouse Hockey