Preview: Los Angeles Kings (17-13-3) @ Vancouver Canucks (14-18-3)
How to Watch and What to Watch For
Hockey! It’s back! Gosh, I missed hockey. And the Kings. I had to do things over the holiday break like “work on other writing projects” and “avoiding the internet so no one spoiled me for Rogue One NO SPOILERS I STILL HAVEN’T SEEN IT”. It’s a tough life.
Kings hockey being back doesn’t fix everything, though. Tyler Toffoli is still nebulously broken; he hasn’t played since the game in Columbus, so if you need me, I’ll be packing my car and driving to the ‘Lumbus to make Very Angry Faces at whichever Blue Jacket injured him. It’s been nice knowing you all.
Regardless, Toffoli’s out until at least the start of the new year, resulting in some line shuffling for the Kings. Marian Gaborik, Anze Kopitar, and Dustin Brown are finally being set together as a line, which was apparently something the team had planned on since the start of the season but had to delay due to injuries to first Gaborik then Kopitar (and then Brown). While there isn’t anyone who’s going to be able to replace Toffoli’s production on Jeff Carter’s wing, Devin Setoguchi will have the chance to show what he can do, creating a 77-10 pairing that’s going to have me both confused and weirdly nostalgic for as long as it lasts. (Pour one out for Vintage Mike Richards, you know?)
On defense, Brayden McNabb is getting closer to making his return, but isn’t quite there yet. He needs to get more full contact practice in before being put back in the lineup. Kevin Gravel is probably the most vulnerable to being replaced, if the team wants to continue swapping Gilbert and Greene in a rotation of veteran defensemen. If Gravel wants to make this decision difficult on the team, he needs to string together some strong games over this next stretch.
The Canucks, meanwhile, still seem unsure if they’re in a rebuild, not in a rebuild, rebuilding slowly from the inside, in the playoffs hunt, completely dead in the water, or if they really even exist at all and aren’t just a figment of our imaginations.
They’re still searching for someone to skate alongside the Sedins, as they’ve been unable to find much chemistry with Loui Eriksson. Since Henrik and Daniel don’t have a secret triplet that can be called up, Jayson Megna is getting the nod tonight. Megna’s been one of those “bubble” players for his career, bouncing back and forth between the AHL and NHL with the Penguins, Rangers, and now Canucks. With all the injuries the Canucks have sustained, Megna’s getting an extended look now and yet another chance to take advantage of the benefits of skating with the Sedins. On the blue line, defenseman Alex Edler seems like a lock to return tonight after missing time with a broken finger. Based on lines during practice, he’ll be bumping Alex Biega from the lineup.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Setoguchi
King - Dowd - Lewis
Andreoff - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gravel - Greene
D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Megna
Granlund - Sutter - Eriksson
Baertschi - Horvat - Burrows
Gaunce - Chaput - Skille
Stecher - Edler
Sbisa - Tanev
Tryamkin - Hutton
Opposing Preview: Nucks Misconduct