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Game Day Preview #21, Colorado Avalanche @ Los Angeles Kings

Oh yay! We get to shut down the league’s leading scorer(s)!

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Los Angeles Kings Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

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

Hello, Actual Legitimate Team

The Kings’ wins — when they’ve won at all — have come against teams with their own struggles: a 2-0 win against the Blues, 2-1 over the Blackhawks, 4-1 over the Ducks. The win against the Blue Jackets (4-1) came as Columbus embarked on a rough road trip and weren’t looking their best.

The team showed some life against Nashville, but couldn’t seal the deal. And the less said about that Toronto game, the better. Good teams, even teams that are average-to-good, are tough outs for the Kings, and they haven’t been able to secure any of those points yet.

So enter the Colorado Avalanche. They’re 10-6-4 on the season, with three wins in their last five, and holding onto the first wild card slot in the West. They boast two of the top three leading scorers in the league, and two of the top ten goal scorers.

What can the Kings do against a team that actually puts pucks in nets?

The answer should be: don’t panic and stick to your game.

But it’s probably going to be: panic and hang Cal Petersen out to dry.

Good luck, kid.

Net of the Future

After letting in a few goals in Nashville that maybe another goaltender would have stopped, even behind this defense, Cal Petersen stepped up his game in St. Louis. He withstood a late game push from the Blues that saw them holding onto the puck for what felt like the entirety of the third period. The end of the game played out like one long, extended penalty kill where the Kings couldn’t clear their own zone. (So, basically, any old Kings penalty kill then.)

Yes, it’s a little bit of a pumping of the tires for the young rookie. He’s made his share of mistakes, gotten drawn out of position or spun around in his net. He’s gotten caught looking places that are nowhere near the puck.

But right now, if rallying around their rookie goaltender is what the Kings need to do to play a solid game — things like committing to defensive strategies that keep him from facing too many high-danger chances (Natural Stat Trick credits the Blues with only five high danger chances in that game) — then we’ll take it. We’ll tell the Kings that Petersen is the best thing since sliced bread or, like, ice cream for people who shouldn’t eat dairy (but eat it anyway) if that makes for a slightly more watchable product.

So, go Cal. Go do your thing.

The Opposition

Colorado struggled in their outing against the Ducks earlier this week, needing overtime to get the job done. It was perhaps a wakeup call for the Avalanche, who could have walked into that game expecting it to be a little bit easier than it was.

So thanks, Ducks, for reminding the Avalanche not to underestimate struggling teams. Sure they’ll be on their A-game tonight.

As always, Nate MacKinnon is one to watch for from our visitors tonight. His MVP nod was very well deserved as he re-emerged into the national spotlight with a commanding season. Last year, the Kings were able to mostly hold MacKinnon in check — see also, Anze Kopitar’s four goal statement game against the Avalanche last season.

As has been the theme this season, the Kings may need to pay most attention to shutting down the bottom six of the Avalanche. If you assume the Kopitar line is going to battle the MacKinnon line to a stand-still, then you still have to deal with Alex Kerfoot (14 points), and some big scorers on defense, including Tyson Barrie (17 points).

It’s really that top line of MacKinnon (29 points), Mikko Rantanen (32 points), and Gabe Landeskog (22 points) that has been dominating play for the Avalanche.

Keep an eye on them. Please? For Cal?

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