Game Time: 6:00 PM Pacific, Fox Sports West
Well, the season’s all but over save the actual games, but it’s okay, guys, Jeff Carter believes in the power of math!
Unless Carter’s going to both score every goal his team needs to win out these last seven games and single-handedly sabotage the Blues -- which, hey, I’m not not suggesting that -- I’m okay with the team starting to display a little touch of realism here.
The Kings are on their Goodwill Tour to end the season, providing clinching scenarios last night for three separate teams. Tonight, they can up that number to five -- a loss to the Flames will punch the post-season ticket for both Calgary and St. Louis. While I personally prefer when the Kings embrace the role of villain that their media imagery often tries to portray, I guess maybe these are a kinder, gentler Los Angeles Kings, who give away standings points to other teams in need.
Speaking of villains.
The narrative tonight is going to be all about Matt Tkachuk. It doesn’t matter who else is on the ice for the Flames. They could call up every last guy from Stockton; as long as Tkachuk is playing, the whole story is going to be about Tkachuk “getting what’s coming” for his hit on Drew Doughty. I’ll spare you my thoughts on hockey culture and a team’s response to someone “taking liberties”, but suffice it to say, the television cameras might as well just track Tkachuk’s every shift, waiting for something to happen.
For what it’s worth, the message the Kings are sending is a very even-keeled one. Aside from Drew Doughty’s initial response after the game, the Kings responses have basically been a consistent “we don’t have time for that”. Winning games is important. Exacting revenge for a hit? Probably a little less pressing. The best revenge, if you ask me, is a convincing win, rather than a set of matching five-minute majors.
Of course, that would require the Kings to score a few goals.
Publically, the Flames are saying that they know they’re up against a desperate team, but I wouldn’t be surprised if privately, they swap out “desperate” for “fragile”, or something even less complimentary. Slow starts, goals on opening shifts, a disorganized power play, an inability to press in the closing period of a game -- all things that have been dooming the Kings to falling further and further out of playoff contention. A few seasons ago, it was the dreaded shootout that helped to spoil things. This year, it’s been a comically terrible shooting percentage and a roster not built to keep up with today’s NHL.
But if you’re looking for bright spots, just keep watching Adrian Kempe and Jonny Brodzinski. On a line with Dustin Brown, those three provided some quality chances and maintained excellent possession numbers throughout the night. While it’s not quite the Carter and Sons 2.0 that I was hoping for in yesterday’s preview, it’s enough of a new look that I’m excited to see how their chemistry improves with more minutes together.
Hang in there, guys. Game 82 is almost here.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Pearson - Kopitar - Iginla
Lewis - Carter - Toffoli
Brown - Kempe - Brodzinski
Clifford - Dowd - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - LaDue
Gaudreau - Monahan - Ferland
Tkachuk - Backlund - Frolik
Versteeg - Stajan - Brouwer
Bouma - Bennett - Chiasson
Giordano - Hamilton
Brodie - Stone
Bartkowski - Engelland
Opposing Preview: Matchsticks & Gasoline