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Off Day Watch, 10/9: It All Starts With... The Fourth Line?

As the Kings struggle to find a fit for their other bottom-six forwards, Clifford, Shore, and Lewis are off to a solid start.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at San Jose Sharks Andrew Villa-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Kings are 2-0-0! With apologies to Jonathan Quick and Jake Muzzin, you could argue that the most encouraging aspect of the season’s first 120 minutes is how well three of LA’s four forward lines have played. Keeping lines together after a win isn’t an unusual concept, but the consistent rotation and fairly equal usage of the lines is. LA’s most-used line at even strength so far is Iafallo-Kopitar-Brown, but the second-most-used isn’t Pearson-Carter-Toffoli. It’s Kyle Clifford, Nick Shore, and Trevor Lewis, the so-called “fourth line.”

It hasn’t all been perfect for those three; the line has taken four penalties in two games at 5v5, including two from the usually squeaky-clean Lewis. But in addition to the surprise of having the line contribute on the scoreboard in each of the first two games, the trio has been rock-solid in its own end. John Stevens started the trio in the defensive zone quite often on Saturday, and the Sharks repeatedly were given the chance to choose who would skate against them as the home team. Though (as expected) San Jose was able to outshoot the three when they were on the ice, the Sharks weren’t able to shoot from dangerous locations. According to Corsica, San Jose’s expected goal, or xG, tally with the trio on the ice was 0.29, on 16 shot attempts. For the sake of comparison, Mikkel Boedker’s goal had an xG of 0.32 on its own.

The other bottom-six line has a lot of work to do, but Clifford, Shore, and Lewis are helping take some pressure off.

HIGHLIGHTS TO WATCH

KINGS WATCH

  • Until he comes back, this first bullet point will usually be related to Alec Martinez. TODAY: He feels good but hasn’t skated. From John Stevens via Jon Rosen:

We thought there was a chance he’d skate today, but there’s no sense rushing him back and pushing it. I think a day right now might save you a week moving forward, but I think he’s close to getting back on the ice.

  • This is a fun story.
  • Anze Kopitar’s five shots on goal were his most in a game since October 18, 2016. He hasn’t been especially dominant against the Sharks in his career — he feasts considerably more on the Ducks and Coyotes — but he does seem to decide games pretty often when he faces them.

LEAGUE WATCH

  • Alex Ovechkin has been absolutely absurd so far this season. [Japers’ Rink]
  • Adam Cracknell is a hot commodity! [Defending Big D]
  • Speaking of waiver pickups: Jordan Nolan played in the Sabres’ season opener, a 3-2 shootout loss in which he played 2:24 on a perfect PK. However, he’s been scratched from the last two games, 6-3 and 6-2 defeats, in favor of Matt Moulson. [Die by the Blade]

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