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Game Day Preview #16, Calgary Flames @ Los Angeles Kings

We’ll just assume you’re already wondering what Matt Tkachuk is going to do tonight.

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 7:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Matchsticks & Gasoline

Play a Full 60 Minutes

If we did “keys to the game,” this would be on the list for every single game until the Kings started doing it consistently. They came out on fire against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, but weren’t able to sustain any sort of pressure over 60 minutes. The game slowly slipped away from the Kings, and while some of that was due to pressure from the Wild, some of it was, once again, self-inflicted wounds.

While the Flames’ status as a true contender is up for debate, and probably won’t be resolved until they fix their goaltending, they do have a talented enough collection of players to do enough damage to outscore their own goaltending woes. The Kings have generally done well at holding other team’s top lines in check, but have frequently found themselves on the losing end of the bottom-six battle. If the Kings can keep Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matt Tkachuk, etc., off the scoresheet, great, but they’ve still got to watch out for Michael Frolik (seven goals) and the other hard-working bottom-six players for the Flames. Focusing just on Gaudreau and company won’t be nearly enough.

When Will The Bottom Six’s Goals Return From The War?

Speaking of hard-working bottom six players.

Trevor Lewis leads that group with a whopping three points so far this season. The days of the Kings having depth players who contribute on the scoresheet seems to be gone, but if they’d like to get back in the win column, those guys need to accomplish something.

Kyle Clifford’s sat as a healthy scratch this season, and it’s a hard decision to argue with, as his speed and skill isn’t the direction the team wants to go in. But in the past few games, Clifford has been the player on that bottom line to give them a spark of life. Is he fast? No. Does he do more than go north-south on the ice? Big no. But for a team starved for some sort of emotion, Clifford’s at least been playing with his heart on his sleeve when he gets out there.

Adrian Kempe, still miscast as a center, now gets to be miscast as a fourth-line center. He at least plays with speed and energy, usually, and he has been better in the discipline department lately. His only penalty in the last five games was a late game slashing penalty against the Ducks. But what he’s supposed to accomplish with Clifford and Thompson on his wings remains to be seen.

Also, I guess Nate Thompson wins faceoffs sometimes, right? I guess? Maybe?

(Backes is the focus of this tweet but take a peek at number two on the list.)

The Opposition

Of goalies with more than five games played, Mike Smith boasts some of the league’s worst numbers (.872 Sv%, 3.66 GAA). He has five wins mostly because the Flames score themselves out of trouble (their 3.38 goals/game is eighth-most in the league).

The Kings will not be facing off against Mike Smith tonight, though.

Instead they get goaltender David Rittich, playing in his 30th NHL game. As he’s been taking on more starts for Calgary this year, he’s showing that he could be the answer Calgary needs to help shore up their net (.927 Sv%, 2.24 GAA) at least in the short term. Rittich has never faced the Kings in his career, which means that the Kings are taking on a mostly untested backup goaltender, and we know how those games go.

The Flames are led unsurprisingly by Matt Tkachuk and Johnny Gaudreau in points (19 each), with Sean Monahan and the newly acquired Elias Lindholm right on their heels (18 each). They’d be a fun team to keep tabs in, if they weren’t in the same division.

Proving that anything can happen in hockey, the Flames lost on Wednesday to the Anaheim Ducks, snapping a four-game winning streak for our Calgarian opponents. It was another game that saw the Flames try to come back from behind, only this time, they weren’t able to seal the deal. The Flames, by the way, are 3-4-0 when trailing after one period, and 5-6-1 when trailing after two.

Hot tip: don’t get behind against the Calgary Flames.

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