HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 12:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Die By The Blade
Not-So-Low Hanging Fruit
I hesitate to use the word fragile, but having loss three straight games, with only one coming to a true contender in the league, and including the full-scale breakdown that was Thursday’s game, has got to have the Kings approaching that state. The game against the Islanders shouldn’t have gotten as out of hand as it did — the two teams were fairly statistically matched when it came to shots for and against, and goals scored and allowed.
Well. We all know how that ended.
Usually we’d write games like that off as just a blip. Even the best teams have off nights. And, well, we’re Kings fans. We know all about slow starts and grinding seasons and squeaking into the playoffs in the last week of the regular season.
But Thursday’s game wasn’t that. Sure, the Kings were without Dustin Brown and Anze Kopitar, and just welcoming back Jonathan Quick, but that doesn’t excuse the mental lapses and lazy play we saw against the Islanders.
And so here comes a team that the Kings don’t necessarily want to find themselves lumped in with, the Buffalo Sabres, who are still struggling to find their footing in this early season, too. Their goals per game is second worst in the league, averaging 1.86 a game — the Kings, though, are sitting at just two per game. Their penalty kill is operating at 69.6%, fourth worst in the league — but the Kings are sitting just behind them at 70%. The Sabres — and the Kings — are having a hard time getting shots through to the net, and an equally hard time preventing shots from getting to their own.
Normally, a visit from the Buffalo Sabres — even for a matinee game — wouldn’t prompt feelings of thinking “well, this game could go either way,” but welcome to the 2018-19 season, I suppose.
Tanner Pearson, Healthy Scratch?
Earlier in the week, Tanner Pearson skated with the extras, and perhaps the only thing that kept him in the lineup was Anze Kopitar’s sudden illness. And I spent most of the week being perplexed at why you’d scratch Pearson, who isn’t having the greatest start to his season, but isn’t really any worse than any of the rest of the players expected to make an impact for this team.
And then Thursday’s game happened, and Pearson, despite being given a last-minute reprieve, looked lost on the ice. Again — so did almost everyone else, but someone teetering on healthy scratch territory needs to go out and have a statement game. Pearson made a statement alright, and it was to the tune of being on the ice for four goals against.
He was on the outside looking in again at practice yesterday, skating alongside Jaret Anderson-Dolan, who may also be out tonight in favor of doubling down on some grit and attitude, instead. And this time, I’m hard pressed to say that maybe Pearson shouldn’t be watching from a box seat somewhere. He’s a valuable player and can make a difference when he’s on his game. The Kings need him to be that difference-maker, but seven games in and Pearson’s looked nothing like the player we know he can be.
Well, even if everything goes wrong, you’ll at least get to say you saw Rasmus Dahlin early in his career. Dahlin’s being highly sheltered, taking on mostly third-pairing minutes, but has shown flashes of why he was the consensus first overall pick in the draft this summer. And of course the Sabres still have Jack Eichel, trying to drag this team to relevancy if it kills him. Eichel is an elite talent and can be a game-changer, but the team around him is still trying to make strides to be able to support him on the ice. They’re getting closer, but every year they just can’t seal the deal.
Early results for the Sabres are mixed — they had a winning record for a hot minute, winning three of their first five games before dropping the last two. They’ve been shut out once and their wins have come against the Rangers, the Golden Knights, and the Coyotes — one team in a rebuild, one team working on recapturing magic, and whatever the Coyotes are this season.
The Kings’ losing streak is already at three. A win today against a Sabres team that’s still looking for its own identity will help keep this from snowballing before the Kings head back out on the road.