Preview: Tampa Bay Lightning (20-20-4) @ Los Angeles Kings (22-17-4)
[Editor’s note: Anze Kopitar is ill and will miss today's game.]
What's the most ridiculous, non-essential thing you've ever spent money on? I almost got a new answer for that question on Saturday night, as I stood in an eternally long bathroom line at Joe Lewis Arena, then waited for a bus back to a parking lot, then crammed in the back of a car with several other grown adults for the ride back to Ohio, all while refreshing the auction page for one of those very fancy throwback jerseys the Kings wore. The jersey I had my eye on got too rich for my blood, but for one bright, shining moment, I could have envisioned myself clutching a piece of cloth that I paid far too much money for.
(I got to watch the Wings’ rookie goalie stonewall the Penguins in Detroit. It wasn't a shutout, but I definitely saw some shades of that game against the Kings. Bad memories.)
Aside from missing out on being able to exchange money for goods and services, I also missed out on the last period of the game. I don't know why I was surprised when I scrolled through the NHL app the next morning to see that none other than Jeff Carter won the game in overtime. Not quite sure if I was happier that the team won, or happier that my last game preview didn't jinx the Kings to get stonewalled by Michael Hutchinson. (Why not both, I guess.)
Based on Sunday's practice, it looks like there may be a few changes coming in the Kings' lineup. Brayden McNabb, who still seems to be struggling after returning from injury, practiced on the extra-bottom pairing with Tom Gilbert. He's continually had the least ice time of all defensemen and has yet to notch a point since he's returned. McNabb has had some good chances but overall has underwhelmed and looks like he may be sitting this one out.
The bottom six on the forward lines were a bit jumbled as well, so take everything below with a grain of salt and/or an enormous mental shrug. With Trevor Lewis and Dustin Brown bumped up to the top six, they've take much of the depth scoring with them. Nic Dowd and Nick Shore are the only players on those lines to get on the scoresheet in the past five games, and Shore's goal was shorthanded. All of the players on the bottom six, including potential scratch Kyle Clifford, are essentially interchangeable at this point, but it would be great to see them contribute more.
And maybe today's the day for it, since the Lightning's roster is basically Victor Hedman and the Syracuse Crunch. Okay, okay, it's not that bad, but injuries have taken down Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, JT Brown, and Brayden Point. The Lightning overall have 127 man games lost to injury this season, something which has certainly contributed to them being out of the playoffs picture at this point. The continued emergence of Jonathan Drouin has been a huge help to the Lightning this season, showing that at least in this case, Steve Yzerman's patience paid off. Drouin's 13 goals and 15 assists can't replace Steven Stamkos' production, but it's certainly been a bright spot in an otherwise challenging season for the Bolts. (Stamkos, by the way, is still eighth in points for Tampa Bay, with 20 points in just 17 games.)
This game is the first of a back to back for the Lightning, as they face the Ducks on Tuesday night. They just wrapped up a set of back-to-backs at home, splitting them with a win and a loss (the win was the Lightning's only win this month) so between travel, tired legs, and a matinee game, this could get off to a slow start for everyone.
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Dowd - Lewis
Pearson - Carter - Brown
King - Andreoff - Setoguchi
Clifford - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gravel - Greene
Tampa Bay Lightning
Palat - Namestnikov - Kucherov
Boyle - Filppula - Drouin
Killorn - Johnson - Vermin/Condra
Dumont - Bournival - Paquette
Hedman - Sustr
Nesterov - Stralman
Garrison - Witkowski
Opposing Blog: Raw Charge