Game Time: 7:00 PM, NBCSN
Good evening from Los Angeles, where it’s a little hazy and everything smells like forest fire. Your wayward out-of-town writer is masquerading as a local this week, where I confirmed today’s lineup with my very own two eyes.
The lineup stays the same as it was for much of the game in Chicago. John Stevens changed some of his lines up by the end of that game, looking for someone to finally be able to break through in scoring. (Thanks again, Christian Folin.) But those changes proved to be temporary, and everyone looks to be back in their right place tonight.
At practice this morning, after the bulk of regular practice concluded, a small group of players, including Nick Shore, Jussi Jokinen, Alex Iafallo, and Derek Forbort, went to one end to work on deflections/tip-ins. The extra players, including not-quite-ready Kyle Clifford and Andy Andreoff, stayed for at least an extra 30-45 minutes, working on drills that worked on speed, edge work, and simulated rebounds (they’d take a shot at the net and immediately afterwards have to be in position to catch a rebound passed to them from a coach). (For what it’s worth, it was a hard skate for all of them and Clifford in particular is looking good. Still no specific timetable for his return, but he looks very close to being back to being the wrecking ball that we’re used to.)
After a tough but incredibly successful road trip, the Kings are back in town and looking to start improving their home record. They’ve been stellar on the road, but success at the Staples Center has been elusive. While sometimes you’d almost expect the first game back home after a road trip, no matter how successful the trip was, to be a bit of a slog, the hope is that the Kings can capitalize on some strong play to keep the momentum going. They’ve found ways to win during their five-game winning streak (currently the longest active streak in the league, tied with Dallas and Montreal) -- sometimes they’ve relied on Jonathan Quick and the defense, sometimes they’ve relied on luck, and sometimes it’s been plain old good, sound hockey.
The Kings will need to be able to break through the stingy defense of the Minnesota Wild tonight in order to bring their winning streak to six games. After two disappointing losses to the Blues and the Jets (the Wild allowed a total of 13 goals in those games), the Wild have started to look more Bruce Boudreau-like, winning their next two games (against Vegas and St. Louis). Both of those wins were one-goal affairs (the Vegas/Minnesota final score was 4-2 but the last one was an empty net) and the St. Louis game went to overtime, particularly because of a stellar performance from Devan Dubnyk, who faced 42 shots and only allowed one goal.
The Wild haven’t excelled on the road lately; those two massive losses were both on the road, and they’re 5-7-1 overall when away from home. Boudreau feels confident that the team has ironed out their issues, particularly with the re-addition to Nate Prosser on the back end. But even if the personnel are different, the Kings sure are familiar with Boudreau and his coaching tactics, so they may be able to figure out how to break this game wide open.
Before we go, here’s a vintage Jonathan Quick save:
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Shore - Toffoli
Gaborik - Kempe - Lewis
Jokinen - Mitchell - Brodzinski
Muzzin - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Folin
Granlund - Koivu - Zucker
Niederreiter - Staal - Foligno
Winnik - Coyle - Stewart
Ennis - Cullen - Mitchell
Suter - Dumba
Brodin - Murphy
Reilly - Prosser
Opposing Preview: Hockey Wilderness