Preview: Carolina Hurricanes (10-10-6) @ Los Angeles Kings (13-10-2)
The Carolina Hurricanes are a bit of an enigma. They’ve got one of the best young defensemen in the league in Justin Faulk, a lot of top quality prospects and young players, including rookie Sebastian Aho, who did this last night against Anaheim:
And it’s not just the eye test that says there’s something there. The Hurricanes have some very good underlying numbers. At even strength, they’re fourth in Corsi-for (Los Angeles is second). They’ve notched wins against some very good teams lately, including a 1-0 shut out of the Lightning and a five-game winning streak that saw them defeat teams including Capitals, Sharks, and Canadiens. Their penalty kill is tops in the league -- they’ve got a 91.7% success rate. Going back to the beginning of November, they’ve only allowed two goals while shorthanded. They’re one of the least penalized teams in the league, too, so they’re stingy all around.
They’ve got a lot of the pieces you need to be successful in the league. And yet, the Hurricanes sit near the bottom of the league (23rd) -- they’ve got four wins in their last ten, have one of the worst away records in the NHL (3-7-6), and suffered a complete collapse last night against Anaheim. They’re getting surprisingly adequate goaltending from Cam Ward and terrible goaltending from the now-injured Eddie Lack. Michael Leighton is filling in and is expected to start tonight, but he hasn’t appeared regularly in the NHL since 2010 and only has two games under his belt this season
The Kings should be well-rested, having been off since their Sunday loss against the Canadiens. Sunday proved that the Kings can bring the offense when they really want to, even against a world-class goalie like Carey Price (well, less world-class than Jonathan Quick, if you ask the NHL Network). Goals from the bottom six are great, but if the Kings can break through the Hurricanes’ defense, it’d be great to see this as a chance for some of the top-six to get back in the goals column. Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik are still searching for goals; Kopitar hasn’t scored since October and Gaborik has two assists in his four games played since returning from injury. Tanner Pearson and Tyler Toffoli are both in the same boat; each have three goals in the past month. Pearson hasn’t scored since November 19th, and Toffoli’s last was November 17th.
After their drubbing at the hands of the Ducks, the Hurricanes are going to want to redeem themselves. They’re basically like Bizarro Universe Kings -- right down to the fact that both teams may be trotting out journeymen goaltenders tonight -- which means that this could be a very methodical, defense-heavy game to watch.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Lewis
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
King - Dowd - Brown
Clifford - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gravel - Greene
Skinner - Rask - Di Giuseppe
Aho - Teravainen - Stempniak
McGinn - Ryan - Nestrasil
Nordstrom - McClement - Stalberg
Hainsey - Faulk
Slavin - Pesce
Hanifin - Tennyson
Opposing Preview: Canes Country