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Game Day Preview #12, Philadelphia Flyers @ Los Angeles Kings

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The Kings had that winning feeling on Sunday, but can they recapture it tonight?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Philadelphia Flyers Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Broad Street Hockey

Remember What Winning Feels Like

Okay, yes, the Kings gave us a scare on Sunday, going down 2-0 to the equally floundering Rangers.

It took two power play goals and some last minute (literally) heroics to secure a win. And while it shouldn’t have been that hard, at the end of the day, two points are two points.

Ideally, the Kings would have had less of a layoff between games so they could keep hold of that momentum from their win. (Ideally, the team wouldn’t need to engage in psychological trickery like “riding the high from your last win” but, well, here we are, I suppose.) Instead, they’ve had the week off, and while that’s provided valuable practice time, it remains to be seen whether the Kings will come out with the same level of determination that they showed when they fought back against the Rangers.

(That game, by the way? The first time this season that the Kings have fought back to win after being down in the first period. Their record’s 1-5-1 in that respect.)

Lineup Shuffle, Cancelled (For Now)

The Kings have made a number of moves recently, recalling and reassigning players in order to maximize their cap space prior to placing Jonathan Quick on LTIR.

The end result: Mike Amadio is still in Ontario, while Austin Wagner and Sean Walker have been recalled and are both scheduled to be in the lineup tonight. The Kings have no extra forwards, but with the Reign now practicing out of the same facility, there’s an even greater ability to have mobility between the two clubs. Oscar Fantenberg will be your extra defenseman tonight; Paul LaDue is unofficially day-to-day after leaving practice early on Wednesday and not practicing today.

Sean Walker seems to be getting every opportunity to carve out a role on the third pairing. He’s getting highly sheltered minutes — he’s started 85.71% of his shifts in the offensive zone, leading all Kings players. The next names on the list are Sheldon Rempal at 81.25% and Austin Wagner at 72.22%. Dion Phaneuf is the regular lineup player with the highest percentage of offensive zone starts, coming in at 64.86%. But Walker’s seemed to gain the trust of the coaching staff rather quickly, something that LaDue and Fantenberg have both struggled to do recently.

Because recalling and reassigning players is easier than ever for the Kings, we may see them carry eight defensemen for longer than the average team. However, if Walker continues to assert himself and gain more playing time, the team may find themselves needing to make a decision sooner rather than later on the position.

The Opposition

Nothing the Flyers have done this season have done anything to convince me that they’re not actually just Kings East. Perhaps it’s a long con on the part of Dean Lombardi, but the relationship between these teams doesn’t just stop at exchanging players and coaches. Whether it’s struggling special teams, confused coaching, persistent slow starts, an over-reliance on role players, issues at basically every spot in the organization, or a complete lack of any real identity (from franchises eyeball-deep in reputations for grit and heart and physicality), these teams are so similar that it’s scary. While both teams are saying they’re ready to take the next step, neither the Flyers nor the Kings organizations have given their fans much to be hopeful about on-ice lately.

Statistically, the Kings and Flyers are basically cousins, boasting some of the worst special teams in the league (Flyers: 22nd best power play, 30th best penalty kill; Kings: 29th best power play, 20th best penalty kill). The Flyers allow a league-high four goals per game, with the Kings not far behind at 3.55 per game (ninth in the league). While the Flyers have a few more wins under their belt than the Kings, they’ve also struggled to find consistency in their game, trading wins and losses, being shut out twice, and tumbling down a three-game losing streak, breaking it only against the equally hapless Ducks on Tuesday night. (And even that game, the Flyers tried very hard to give away — they surrendered the lead twice before Nolan Patrick scored the game-winning goal with just under two minutes left.)

The Flyers know that they desperately need to reboot their season, and they’re looking to this road trip to do it. Their start against Anaheim was stronger, the Flyers’ top line dominated the Ducks in possession, and, oh yeah, they came away with a win. The Flyers are feeling confident after getting two points against the Ducks (who have now lost six straight) and are going to look to continue that upwards trend.

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