Preview: Edmonton Oilers (44-25-9) @ Los Angeles Kings (37-34-7)
Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific, NBCSN
Hey, funny story, guys.
We’ve still got to play the games even when they’re meaningless.
This is a weird feeling. I don’t like this feeling, do you? I feel a little like I’m missing something.
In quick succession, the Kings failed out of the playoffs, and then Gary Bettman put the kibosh on the NHL at the Olympics, potentially denying us the glory of seeing Anze Kopitar in a Slovenian jersey again, which, let’s be honest, is one of the top, like, six things I care about in regards to the Olympics.
It’s like this sport is determined to take away things that I like. Funny, that.
Today’s preview is a quick one; yours truly is typing this from O’Hare, getting ready to board a plane to take me from Chicago (grey, overcast, rainy, allegedly a chance of snow later this week) to Los Angeles (the opposite of all of that, only with weirder trees and worse traffic). I’ve had this trip planned long before it was clear that the end of the season was going to be meaningless for the Kings, but you can’t go wrong with drinking and friends and hockey, I’m guessing.
The Kings take on the Oilers tonight for the third time in three weeks, which seems especially cruel and unusual this season. There are only a few games left and I feel like they’re all probably against the Oilers, somehow.
We know what the Oilers can do. They’re fast, they’re crafty, they’re Connor McDavid. The Oilers are in search of a 100-point season, and they’re close already, sitting at 97 points and still gunning for a possible spot at the top of the Pacific. (The Ducks, sitting in first, currently have 99 points.)
And if there’s anything to show just what a weird year it’s been, it’s that: the Oilers, the actual honest Edmonton Oilers, are on the verge of 100 points. I’m not going to look it up and instead am just going to guess that the last time that happened, McDavid wasn’t even born yet. (Don’t correct me if I’m wrong, I don’t think I want to know.)
No matter tonight’s outcome, the Kings have the chance to be a bit of a spoiler. Lose, and we’re giving someone the chance to knock the Ducks out of winning the Pacific. Win, and we keep the Oilers from achieving another goal.
So really, it’s a win-win for us, right? Right? (Please say yes.)
Based on morning skate, the Kings are starting to tinker with their lines a little more. I’m not saying that maybe the Kings read my preview piece a few weeks back where I suggested things like “put Pearson and Toffoli on Kopitar’s line” and “give new children to Jeff Carter”, but my line suggestions were at least a little bit right, based on observations from practice. (Please hire me, Kings.)
Jarome Iginla will skate again to Carter’s right, while Adrian Kempe switches back to wing and takes his place on Carter’s left. In theory, this could be Good and Fun for the Kings -- matching Carter up with any skilled, speedy winger has a lot of promise, and he’s meshed well with Iginla so far. It’s too late to really see what kind of damage they can do together, but a Kempe/Carter pairing could be an interesting preview of the 2017-18 season (at least, if I had anything to say about it).
Look, the points mean nothing now. Let’s just have fun.
(I’ll be on an airplane. If it’s not fun, don’t tell me.)
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Pearson - Kopitar - Toffoli
Kempe - Carter - Iginla
Lewis - Shore - Brown
Clifford - Dowd - Brodzinski
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - LaDue
Maroon - McDavid - Draisaitl
Lucic - Nugent-Hopkins - Eberle
Pouliot - Desharnais - Kassian
Caggiula - Letestu - Slepyshev
Klefbom - Larsson
Sekera - Russell
Nurse - Benning
Opposing Preview: Copper & Blue