Game Time: 7:00 PM Pacific, Fox Sports West
This game is important.
I know, I know, the Kings have, like, a microscopic chance of making the playoffs. Technically, they could even be eliminated tonight.
If the Kings are eliminated today (likely) it will be only the second time a top-four shot share team has failed to make in a decade.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) March 31, 2017
Western Conference Playoff Race— Damian Echevarrieta (@Ech28) March 31, 2017
(Games Ending 3/30) pic.twitter.com/J2UkmkuN9g
They’ve struggled against mediocre teams like the Canucks all season long (one shootout win, two losses). A loss tonight would allow both the Blues and the Flames to clinch, leaving Nashville (89 points) as the lone target left to usurp in some sort of magical run to the playoffs. (The Blues and the Flames can clinch without the Kings’ help -- the Blues need just one point against the Avalanche, who have not won a game since March 15th; a loss tonight would be their tenth straight -- but let’s ignore that for now.)
That’s not why tonight’s important.
Want to know why? Because tonight is:
SHORE VS. SHORE
That’s right, we’ve got a North Shore/South Shore faceoff in an all important Battle for Two Points For Two Non-Playoff Bound Teams on the West Coast.
Brothers Nick and Drew Shore will play against one another for the first time in their careers. Drew Shore recently wrapped up his season in Europe -- the former Panthers draft pick scored 50 points with EHC Kloten in the Swiss league -- and signed a contract for the remainder of this season with the Canucks. Much like his slightly younger brother, Drew is holding down a bottom-six center position, so chances are those two will meet at the dot a few times over the course of the evening. Drew, at least, seems prepared for the opportunity.
Drew Shore will face brother Nick for the first time ever tonight. "I'll definitely be trying harder on faceoffs against him!"— Vancouver Canucks (@Canucks) March 31, 2017
Nick drew back into the lineup against the Flames, where it feels like he was the only person who wasn’t dodging Matt Tkachuk’s attempts to fight every last King. He looked fine in his first game back from injury and even won 12 of 18 faceoffs, a team best. (Anze Kopitar won 19 of 30, doing the bulk of the team’s heavy lifting at the dot.)
Now that the Flames game is over, the grit-induced lineup changes can get rolled back. Jonny Brodzinski, dropped from the lineup in favor of giving Andy Andreoff a chance to rack up 34 penalty minutes and a game misconduct, could be back in. Nic Dowd, bumped after Shore’s return, could remain out.
The practice lines from yesterday’s full team skate are below, in lieu of any more concrete information from the team today. They’re… sort of head scratching, if you ask me. I hate them, but if they’re real, then I also kind of see what Sutter’s trying to do. Splitting up his more offensively capable players onto different lines could create more scoring threats. It also forces the Canucks into having to make tougher decisions on which lines to deploy their top players against.
If I had any confidence this approach would work for this particular team, I’d be more into it.
But for all I know, Fourth Line Tyler Toffoli is supposed to send a message to the winger who hasn’t scored since March 14.
Then again, it’s entirely possible that these lines were made up for practice and aren’t what will be iced tonight.
The Kings showed that there’s still some life in them yet against Calgary. Rational minds know there’s not much hope of a playoff spot, but that doesn’t mean you want to see the team come out with no fire, no passion. We’ve seen far too many games this year where too many players looked like they were just going through the motions.
Do you want a win, to delay the inevitable? Or a loss, to get it out of the way?
I don’t know what I want, really, but I’m going to be keeping track of how many times the broadcast reminds us that Drew and Nick are brothers. It’s going to be a Shore thing.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik - Kopitar - Brodzinski
Clifford - Carter - Iginla
Pearson - Kempe - Lewis
Brown - Shore - Toffoli
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - LaDue
D. Sedin - H. Sedin - Chaput
Baertschi - Horvat - Boeser
Eriksson - Sutter - Boucher
Molino - Shore - Biega
Edler - Stecher
Sbisa - Tanev
Hutton - Tryamkin
Opposing Preview: Nucks Misconduct