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Game Day Preview #13, Columbus Blue Jackets @ Los Angeles Kings

The Kings couldn’t get their act together against a not-great team in the Flyers. Maybe they’ll step it up against a good team?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Columbus Blue Jackets Russell LaBounty-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: The Cannon

Welcome Matt Luff

The Kings made a few roster moves, sending Sean Walker and Austin Wagner back to the Ontario Reign, and recalling Mike Amadio and Matt Luff.

Presuming Luff plays tonight, he will be the fifth player to make his NHL debut for the Kings this season, joining Jaret Anderson-Dolan, Sheldon Rempal, Walker, and Wagner. Luff flew under the radar of many Kings fans last season, having had a mostly unremarkable rookie season with the Reign (67 GP, 12G, 17A). However, he had a very noticeable training camp and was one of the standout players on the Kings rookie squads. Luff’s had a very strong start to this season with the Reign, putting up 12 points in eight games and leading the team in scoring. His past two games for the Reign have each been three point outings for him, putting in two goals and an assist in each game. Luff is also a right wing, helping fill a role that the team is suddenly weak at this season.

Amadio, between last season and this, seems like a player who needs to get a little bit of a fire lit under him to help his performance. After being assigned to the Reign, Amadio got into one game and put up three assists. Hopefully the ice time and the success will help sustain him now that he’s back up with the Kings.

Walker’s reassignment makes sense, particularly in light of the fact that he was the first player to lose ice time when John Stevens started playing with a short bench against the Flyers. Walker didn’t look entirely out of place, but despite good possession metrics (61.64 Corsi for%) and cushy offensive zone starts (85.71%), Walker was on the ice for five goals against and just one goal for the Kings. Going to guess that attention and detail in his own zone are on the agenda for Walker’s continued development in Ontario.

Wagner has shown off his impressive speed in Los Angeles but hasn’t been able to do much with it yet. His reassignment to Ontario will give him time to play big minutes there and start working on his shot some more. He should be able to step up right away for the Reign to provide scoring and speed.

A Step in the Right Direction

It’s not all doom and gloom. Really. I promise!

That’s right, special teams are coming along slowly but surely. The power play has been more effective, though it comes in fits and spurts. Infuriatingly, they’ll spend one power play wasting most of their time because they fail to enter the zone, and then they’ll score almost effortlessly on a power play later in the same game. The penalty kill has been visibly better, too. And, perhaps more importantly, team discipline as a whole has improved. Since October 18, the Kings have been the least penalized team in the league, taking just 15 penalties. Heck, even Adrian Kempe has gone two games without taking a penalty.

The Kings spent their practice yesterday working on special teams play. It’s a small fix, just one part of the overall Kings picture that needs some repairs, but managing to do things like “gain momentum on the man advantage” can only improve the team’s prospects. Improved special teams won’t save this team’s season, particularly given how many chances they’re giving up per game, but a power play goal for, or a goal saved when down a man, can make all the difference in a tight game.

Oh Yeah, One More Thing

We’ll just leave this here:

Jeff Carter. 17 career games against the Blue Jackets. 12 goals, six assists.

The Opposition

Speaking of special teams: yikes, Columbus. Since October 18, the Blue Jackets have had the worst power play in the league, converting just 9.1% of the time.

Of course, the bad power play hasn’t really hindered them; the Blue Jackets have won six of their last ten and are one of the highest scoring teams in the league. Their 3.58 goals per game puts them fifth in the league.

They’re being lead in goals by forward Josh Anderson. That’s right, while sniper Artemi Panarin leads the team in overall points, Anderson’s quietly scored seven goals for the Blue Jackets this season. Anderson’s been cast as more of a depth player in past seasons, but spent time on the top line last year alongside Panarin and Pierre-Luc Dubois. He’s more of a typical power forward but when given the opportunity, has shown that he can put the puck in the back of the net. Given the Kings’ propensity for shutting down top lines and then getting run over by depth players, Anderson will be one that they have to keep their eyes on.

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