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Game Day Preview #41, Los Angeles Kings @ Calgary Flames

Take a drink every time someone talks about Matthew Tkachuk.

Calgary Flames v Los Angeles Kings

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (24-11-5) @ Calgary Flames (19-16-4)

How to Watch & What to Watch

It seems somehow fitting that the Kings mark the halfway point of the season with a trip to Calgary. Not that anyone needs the reminder, but Calgary has been all too delighted to play the spoiler to the Kings’ spot in the standings over the past few years. And they’ve also got one of the game’s most irritating up-and-coming young players in Matthew Tkachuk, who’s made even more irritating by the fact that he’s actually good.

The Flames are in much of the same boat as the Oilers this season — underachieving according to most pre-season projections, but just successful enough to pull out a big win when they need it. With 42 points, Calgary is just four points back of the Sharks for third in the Pacific; they’re also within reach of claiming a wild card spot (current wild card residents Dallas and Anaheim have 47 and 46 points respectively).

While the Oilers have been undone largely by inconsistency, the Flames have both inconsistent scoring — Johnny Gaudreau may lead the team in points but only has two goals since the start of December — and significant injuries to deal with this season. Defenseman Travis Hamonic has missed time already, and has struggled at times on his new team. Kris Versteeg is out potentially for the rest of the year. Eternal hockey legend Jaromir Jagr has been in and out of the lineup since the start of the season, and will be out again tonight. To add to that, Michael Frolik, a key role player, is out for the next 4-6 weeks with a fractured jaw.

It’s been an up-and-down road for Calgary lately — they’ve got four wins in their last ten, and gutted it out for a 4-3 win over Chicago on Sunday. But the Flames gave up a 3-0 lead in the process, and Chicago is currently playing in front of an NHL rookie netminder who is — oh, yeah, 32 years old. Two points are two points, but the Flames took the long road to get there.

The Kings meanwhile put on a masterful performance against Edmonton, but without that five minute major to Pat Maroon, the game could have been completely different. The first two periods were very tightly contested, with Edmonton even having the edge in the expected win.

But even with the Kings’ road power play being truly awful, statistically, they were able to run roughshod over the Oilers’ even worse penalty kill, and it was too much for the Oilers to come back from.

Of course, they also let Andy Andreoff score, so, hey.

The Flames are probably going to put up more of a fight tonight than the Oilers did. At least one statistical model gives Calgary the edge tonight. No word on whether that model takes into account the long history of futility for the Kings whenever these two teams face off.

The Kings look to play the same lines and defense pairings as they did during the Oilers game. All four lines clicked so well that John Stevens didn’t even start to tinker as the game progressed. Look at that chart. So pretty and clean.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Pearson - Kopitar - Brown
Gaborik - Kempe - Toffoli
Clifford - Shore - Lewis
Andreoff - Mitchell - Jokinen

Muzzin - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Fantenberg

Quick
(Kuemper)

Calgary Flames

Gaudreau - Monahan - Ferland
Tkachuk - Backlund - Brouwer
Bennett - Jankowski - Hathaway
Lazar - Stajan - Mangiapane

Giordano - Hamilton
Brodie - Hamonic
Kulak - Stone

Smith
(Rittich)

Opposing Preview: Matchsticks & Gasoline