Preview: Los Angeles Kings (22-11-5) @ Vancouver Canucks (16-17-5)
Game Time: 7:00 PM, FS-W
The Kings head to Canada for a brief road trip through the west, ending 2017 in Vancouver before heading on to Edmonton and Calgary. After a frustrating — but completely predictable — loss to the Golden Knights, the Kings look again to get back on track. In theory, the Canucks are the perfect team to bounce back with, but past history says it may not exactly be smooth sailing.
Here’s a few things to watch for tonight:
- Where’d the rookies go? John Stevens leaned heavily on his veteran core against Vegas. Anze Kopitar played 24 minutes. Tyler Toffoli, Tanner Pearson, and Dustin Brown all played between 18 and 20 minutes. On the back end, Drew Doughty played a ridiculous 27 minutes. But the Kings young players were largely absent. Alex Iafallo was benched during the third period. Jonny Brodzinski saw one shift in the third. Kurtis MacDermid was benched after having a front-row seat to Brendan Leipsic’s go-ahead goal for Vegas in the third. Stevens has given his young players a lot of latitude, but they’re all making some sloppy mistakes that are winding up in the back of the Kings’ net. Brodzinski will most likely be a scratch tonight and Iafallo is down to the fourth line. MacDermid for some reason stays in, although his lack of mobility and speed is being exposed more and more as the season goes on.
- Special teams: Only vaguely special. The penalty kill looked masterful against Vegas, but it shouldn’t have needed to be trotted out nearly as often as it was. Kopitar spent four minutes killing penalties, as did Doughty, Alec Martinez, and Derek Forbort. Very few of those penalties were of the “if I don’t hook this guy, he’s 100% going to score” variety. Quality of officiating aside, most of the penalties were needless, like Adrian Kempe’s holding penalty in the third, or an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty handed out to Jonathan Quick at the close of the second. I can’t speak for my fellow writers here, but I have a lot of affection for Angry Jonathan Quick, and while it’s all fun and games when he’s inserting himself in the middle of a scrum, it’s something different when the antics put your team down a man. The Kings got lucky that Vegas’ power play wasn’t particularly good.
They say some milestones can never be reached, but Jonathan Quick has never let anything stop him during his all-star career. pic.twitter.com/cGNe1YrTRm— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 29, 2017
- Play a full 60 minutes, please, I’m begging you. Everyone knows this is the time of year the Kings inevitably start to coast, no matter where they are in the standings. Winters are bad for them, for whatever reason. Against Vegas, they played a strong first period, then decided to sit back for the last two, and went home with only one point for their troubles. One good period is rarely enough to get the job done. The last time these teams met, the Kings ended the first with a 2-0 lead and then surrendered three straight goals to lose in regulation. On Thursday, the Canucks went into the second period against the Blackhawks tied at 1-1 and then scored four straight goals to cruise to an eventual 5-2 victory. The Canucks aren’t a particularly good team by most metrics, but if you let off the gas, you’re going to get burned by them.
- Hi, Nic Dowd. The Kings’ former fourth liner/usual healthy scratch plays his 100th NHL game tonight. He’s been playing the same role for the Canucks as he did for the Kings. I still miss him. Don’t @ me. (Jordan Subban has two goals and one assist in four games for the Reign since being acquired by the Kings.)
Dowd, also playing in his 100th @NHL game tonight, says it’s just another game facing his old Kings teammates. pic.twitter.com/QLHBpFI8Du— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) December 30, 2017
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Pearson - Kopitar - Brown
Gaborik - Kempe - Toffoli
Clifford - Shore - Lewis
Iafallo - Mitchell - Jokinen
Muzzin - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Gravel
D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Eriksson
Vanek - Gagner - Boeser
Goldobin - Granlund - Virtanen
Gaunce - Dowd - Biega
Edler - Stetcher
Del Zotto - Pouliot
Hutton - Gudbranson
Opposing Preview: Nucks Misconduct