Preview: Los Angeles Kings (17-14-3) @ Edmonton Oilers (18-12-6)
How to Watch and What to Watch For
Following up a seven-city road trip with a brief holiday break and then back-to-back games seems a little cruel, doesn’t it? Especially when those back-to-backs are in Vancouver and Edmonton?
(It gets meaner, though: this road trip is followed up by a home-and-home with the Pacific-leading San Jose Sharks, so. Prepare for some whining about that later this week.)
After the Kings’ slow start doomed them last night against the Canucks, they head into Edmonton to try to right the ship after going 4-4-2 in their last ten. Edmonton’s record isn’t much better, going 4-2-4, losing their last game to the Sharks (and giving up a chance to take over the top of the Pacific standings). The Oilers are still just okay at home, with a .500 record, but the Kings haven’t exactly been lighting it up on the road, with just seven wins in twenty road games. They’ve also been off for nearly a week (they last played on Friday) which could be good (lots of rest!) or bad (slow, sloppy start).
Of course, the Kings haven’t really been lighting it up much at all, no matter where they’re playing, and that’s going to be a problem. The Oilers are finally getting consistent goaltending from Cam Talbot, and Connor McDavid is tied for lead in points with some kid named Sidney Crosby. Talbot leads the league in games played for goalies, making his 33rd start tonight. (Martin Jones is second with 31, and Peter Budaj is close behind with 30. The Pacific pretty clearly knows how to work its goalies.) The Oilers are playing better as a cohesive unit, limiting shot attempts and controlling possession, particularly when McDavid is on the ice. This year seems like one where the Oilers will finally take that great step forward, albeit largely carried on the back of a generational player.
It’s possible, but maybe not exceedingly likely, that the Kings will make lineup changes for tonight. Andy Andreoff and Tom Gilbert were the healthy scratches last night. The fourth line of Clifford/Shore/Nolan looked good against Vancouver, so scratching any of them in favor of Andreoff likely won’t happen. Oftentimes last night oftentimes the only players to sustain any momentum were in the bottom six. Jordan Nolan in particular has shown flashes of being a completely different player lately, making some slick passes and skating moves that have been impressive. Changes could be coming on defense, however, with Brayden McNabb finally fully activated from injured reserve. McNabb is eligible to play tonight. No word on if he will take the ice or not, but if he does, I wouldn’t be surprised to see him take on third pairing minutes to ease him back into the game.
No word on who gets the start in net -- logic says Zatkoff, to avoid overworking Budaj on a back to back. But Darryl Sutter uses his own set of rules, and Budaj looks sharp (and didn’t honestly have much to do over the last two periods in Vancouver), so don’t be surprised if he leads the team out onto the ice tonight.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Setoguchi
King - Dowd - Lewis
Clifford - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gravel - Greene
Lucic - McDavid - Eberle
Maroon - Draisaitl - Nugent-Hopkins
Pouliot - Caggiula - Puljujarvi
Hendricks - Letestu - Kassian
Klefbom - Larsson
Russell - Benning
Davidson - Gryba
Opposing Preview: Copper & Blue