Preview: Los Angeles Kings (12-6-2) @ Vegas Golden Knights (11-6-1)
Game Time: 5:00 PM, FS-W
Before we get started, let’s take a look at the stan---
sjdhsidjfkd WHAT. What is that? Why is Vegas there? Why is this world cruel and unfair and completely nonsensical? What is even happening?
It’s a little bit of the PDO train (Vegas sits right above the Kings at 1.016 -- remember, statistics and math wizardry tell us that PDO will eventually even out as the season goes on, and good teams performing poorly will rise up to 1, and not good teams outperforming their ability will drop). It’s a little bit of having actually talented players on the roster (James Neal and David Perron are infinitely annoying, but they also know how to put pucks in nets). And it’s probably a little bit of Vegas magic.
With the Kings hitting the road, they embark on a rivalry game with what is in many ways the NHL’s hottest team. Going into the season, it was easy to think of this game as one the Kings could sort of write off. The Knights weren’t going to have much relevance to the Kings, particularly in the standings. Just another Arizona, or pre-Connor McDavid Edmonton, to take some points from in the standings.
All that Vegas magic means this game is something entirely different. Look no further than John Stevens choosing to rest Jonathan Quick for yesterday’s game against the Panthers, in favor of making sure he was able to take the ice against a team that’s flirting with first place in the Pacific.
In hockey media, no one predicted this -- for either team. The Knights were supposed to be historically bad (hello, Arizona). The Kings were supposed to be bottom-dwellers in the Pacific. And while the Kings have hit a rough patch that has the doubters out in force, and when the Knights lose, they lose ugly -- they’re still right there at the top.
This is going to be a grit game, no way around it. The Knights, for as much as they’re winning, are still a collection of spare parts. There’s no generational talent, no Connor McDavid to dazzle. Just a bunch of guys who’ve managed to pull together and win a lot of weird, weird games.
The question of who’s in net for Vegas probably won’t be answered until warm-ups. Malcolm Subban has been re-activated after missing time with an injury, and between him and Max Lagace, Subban is the more skilled choice. Whether Vegas wants to play it safe by starting Lagace (with a short leash) than expose Subban to the heavy game the Kings play remains to be seen.
The Kings seem to be treating this game with the type of urgency it actually deserves. Walking into a game against them and thinking you’ll easily come out with two points isn’t going to happen. It has to be a smart game.
Kings coach John Stevens said @GoldenKnights have been able to absorb injuries because they play strong team game. 'I don’t think they’re going anywhere. To me what they’re doing is sustainable and I think they’re a team that’s going to have to be reckoned with all year.'— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) November 19, 2017
When Stevens said @GoldenKnights aren't going anywhere, he meant they're not going to tail off and fall out of division race.— Helene Elliott (@helenenothelen) November 19, 2017
The full-team effort against the Panthers was a good start for the Kings -- getting production from players other than Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown was essential. Jonny Brodzinski finally getting the first goal monkey off his back has to give him a ton of confidence.
This could be a fun one -- early reports already have a lot of Kings fans in the area for the game, so some of Vegas’ home advantage could be lost to an influx of visiting fans. But this isn’t a game to take lightly, and this team has to remember that whenever they hit the ice.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Lewis
Andreoff - Shore - Toffoli
Jokinen - Dowd - Brodzinski
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Folin
MacDermid - Martinez
Vegas Golden Knights
Smith - Karlsson - Marchessault
Leipsic - Eakin - Tuch
Neal - Haula - Perron
Lindberg - Bellemare - Nosek
Theodore - Engelland
McNabb - Schmidt
Hunt - Miller
Opposing Preview: Knights on Ice