Preview: Los Angeles Kings (14-12-2) @ Detroit Red Wings (13-13-4)
This team, sitting outside of a playoffs spot after a first round exit last year, is looking to rebound after losing to a disappointing loss in their last game to a bottom-dwelling opposing-conference team.
Quick, which team am I talking about, Detroit or the Kings?
Spoilers: no matter who you picked, you’re right.
The Red Wings had an absolutely dreadful performance against Arizona on Tuesday, losing 4-1, their third loss in a row. It’s a performance that has Wings fans reeling as they watch their team struggle to put together a solid 60 minute performance. Their last game was a disaster, they’re struggling to score, and for some reason they employ Steve Ott to do… things? Uncertain.
There are some weird coaching decisions being made, too, Drew Miller draws in over frequent scratch Tomas Jurco, and the incredibly speedy Andreas Athanasiou is demoted to fourth line duties. While I haven’t seen many Wings regular season games this year, I saw a lot of Athanasiou at the 2015 Traverse City prospect tournament and in the pre-season, given how often the league likes to pit Chicago and the Red Wings against each other. He’s got some fantastic feet -- which aren’t going to be put to much use given that he’s dragging Ott around.
There are plenty of dangerous players in the Red Wings line-up -- Henrik Zetterberg (and his beard) is leading the team in points, Dylan Larkin is scary good, and even Thomas Vanek is redeeming himself after several miserable years in Minnesota. They just haven’t been able to pull it all together as of late, and fans seen to be inching closer to the panic button.
The Kings, meanwhile, are trying to regroup after their terrible game in Buffalo. Jeff Carter didn’t mince words at all when it came to their performance, and Anze Kopitar bluntly calling the game unacceptable. There aren’t many other ways to explain their performance other than as a complete breakdown from top to bottom. It’s one of those games you hope the team just throws in the trash and forgets about, because other than Carter trying to put the team on his back again, there wasn’t much good to take from this one.
Despite the complete team fail, there aren’t going to be many changes in personnel. Tanner Pearson gets his spin to Kopitar’s left tonight, and Nic Dowd looks to draw back in after being a healthy scratch for a bit. On the defense, everything could be a giant question mark. Jake Muzzin and Alec Martinez had a rough night against the Sabres and could be broken up, and Kevin Gravel looks to sit for the first time in awhile. Jeff Zatkoff gets the start in his hometown.
Both teams are going to want to come out swinging after dismal performances. The Kings haven’t won at the Joe in the past five years; maybe tonight they can say goodbye to the old arena in style with a win.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Pearson - Kopitar - Lewis
King - Carter - Toffoli
Gaborik - Dowd - Brown
Clifford - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gilbert - Greene
Detroit Red Wings
Mantha - Zetterberg - Vanek
Larkin - Nielsen - Glendening
Tatar - Sheahan - Nyquist
Miller - Athanasiou - Ott
DeKeyser - Green
Ericsson - Ouellet
Lashoff - Sproul