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Game Day Watch, 3/13: Los Angeles Kings @ St. Louis Blues

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Kopitar and Quick lead the way as LA prepares for a HUGE matchup.

NHL: Washington Capitals at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 7:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: KABC AM 790
Stream: Fox Sports Go (requires cable subscription)

WHAT TO WATCH FOR

if you’re a Kings fan: LA took advantage of the Capitals’ recent struggles to pick up a key home victory, but that was merely a warm-up for today’s game. Jonathan Quick and Anze Kopitar have both begun picking up their games as of late, an encouraging sign for a team that has missed both of them a lot this season. Can they lead a playoff charge? A win tonight puts them within a point of St. Louis for the eighth and final spot in the West.

if you’re a Blues fan: First Jake Allen turned things around. Then, the Blues followed suit. St. Louis has picked up four straight wins, three of them with the recently-improved Allen in net. St. Louis blew third-period leads in the last two, and their defense has shown cracks, but they got away with it in key matchups with the Islanders and Wild. Can they contain LA’s offense?

if you’re a hockey fan: Various prediction models disagree on what LA’s current chances of making the playoffs are, but according to both the mathematically-inclined hockeyviz.com and the purely schedule-based Sports Club Stats, the difference between a regulation win and a regulation loss is about 25% in terms of playoff odds. For St. Louis — who’s ahead of LA and has slightly more room for error — it’s about 20%. So it’s about as important as a March game can possibly get.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

for the Kings: Brayden McNabb. LA’s three-rookie-unit on defense limited the Washington Capitals to their lowest shot total of the season, but either because of Kevin Shattenkirk’s charge or Darryl Sutter’s preference, McNabb will be rotating back in for Kevin Gravel. With apologies to Jake Muzzin, McNabb has had the biggest gap between his advanced stats and his eye test this season; while he leads the team in Corsi For% and the Kings get a considerable majority of both goals and scoring chances with McNabb on the ice, he only has four points and has seemingly been exposed more often away from Doughty this year. Sutter is showing confidence in McNabb; will he respond?

for the Blues: Carl Gunnarsson. Last game’s Player to Watch for Washington was Shattenkirk, the former Blue. While #1 blueliner Alex Pietrangelo has seen a noticeable uptick in ice time, the often-scratched Gunnarsson has gotten the biggest boost, appearing in every game since the trade. (Chart via hockeyviz.com)

Gunnarsson was third on St. Louis in ice time in their last game, playing a season-high 19:27 with Pietrangelo. He’ll be back on the third pair this game but will continue to reap the benefits of Shattenkirk’s absence.

KINGS WATCH

  • By the way, here’s the explanation of why the hit on Gravel resulted in a two-game ban.
  • Ben Bishop no longer has to wear a blue Lightning-themed mask.

Ben Bishop's new helmet

A post shared by Jon Rosen (@lakinsider) on

  • Who’s that guy playing music in the crowd? It’s Dieter Ruehle!

LEAGUE/WORLD WATCH

  • The Winnipeg Jets have a young team and one of the league’s most exciting players. So where’s the energy? [Arctic Ice Hockey]
  • SBN College Hockey is counting down their top 100 NCAA prospects. So far for LA-owned prospects, the unheralded Steven Johnson has come in at #86 and the undersized Mikey Eyssimont grabbed the #85 spot. Follow along! [SBN College Hockey]
  • The NHL appears to be planning to skip the 2018 Olympics, and players are starting to voice their frustration. [SB Nation]

WATCH THIS

Because we can, it’s Adrian Kempe’s goal again.