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Game Day Preview #31, Los Angeles Kings @ Detroit Red Wings

Detroit: not as bad as expected. Los Angeles: yikes.

NHL: Detroit Red Wings at Los Angeles Kings Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 4:30 PM Pacific
TV: NHL Network, Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Winging It In Motown

On the Road Again

Who’s got one of the worst road records in the NHL? No surprise: it’s the Kings! They’re 4-8-0 when away from the Staples Center this year; the only worse record by points is the Ottawa Senators, who are 3-9-1 on the road.

They’re certainly not being bolstered by the power play — the Kings have exactly one road power play goal, with that tally belong to Jeff Carter in Edmonton at the end of November.

Tonight theoretically could give the Kings an opportunity to change that. They showed that they can, in fact, move the puck on the power play, resulting in Matt Luff’s power play goal against the Golden Knights. It was a different philosophy for the Kings, who generally spend a lot of time on the perimeter and then just hope Drew Doughty can bomb something in from the blue line. And they’ll be doing it against the league’s worst home penalty kill. The Red Wings have allowed 17 power play goals against while at home this season, with just a 69.6% success rate on the kill.

If there’s any game that’s right there for the taking to allow the Kings to work out some of their road game woes, it’s this one, right here.

Speaking of Woes

We already know all about Kyle Clifford, who stayed behind in Los Angeles after maybe, maybe not, being concussed in the game against Vegas. (He’s considered day to day with an upper body injury, but per Rob Blake, Clifford is being treated for “concussion like symptoms”.)

Add one more name to the injury list, though: Alec Martinez is out, also with an upper body injury, also day to day. Martinez left the bench during the second period on Saturday, but returned to finish the game with a total of 16:28 time on ice. While Willie Desjardins said that Martinez’s injury is not a concussion, which is excellent news for Martinez and his continued health, it does put the Kings down one of their top defensemen.

Neither Clifford nor Martinez are expected to join the Kings this week, meaning they would miss the entirety of this Eastern Conference road trip. For now, Paul LaDue will draw back into the lineup on defense, and Austin Wagner will skate with the forwards. Defenseman Sean Walker is en route to join the team as the extra defenseman. At this time, there have been no corresponding recalls at forward. Walker has 17 points in 20 games and leads all Reign defensemen in points.

The Opposition

The Detroit Red Wings appeared on many pre-season lists as a team anticipated to be at or around dead last in the standings. They’ve managed to defy the odds, though — they have 30 points, the same as Ottawa (expected to be much worse), Pittsburgh (oops), and Carolina (honestly, who knows at this point). The Red Wings aren’t anticipated to be a playoff team this season, but of the non-playoff teams, they’re somewhat surprising overachievers. Whether or not they can maintain their pace throughout the season to be a solidly average non-playoff team remains to be seen, but for now, for Red Wings fans, they’ve been a pleasant surprise.

The Red Wings have played some wild games as of late. They surrendered a two-goal lead on Saturday to the Islanders, allowing three straight goals in a loss. Last week in Toronto, the Red Wings won in overtime, but were up 4-1 before Toronto stormed back in the fourth period to tie it up. And against the Lightning, the teams traded goals all night long, the Red Wings held a 5-3 lead at the beginning of the third period before allowing two goals, including one shorthanded, and eventually lost in the shootout. Their ability to close out games is suspect — they’re 4-3-2 when leading after the first, so those early game leads are not exactly air-tight. And while the Kings aren’t very good at coming from behind (1-11-1 when trailing after the first; 0-14-0 when trailing after the second), if there’s ever a chance to buck that trend, it’s going to be in Detroit.

Also, Justin Abdelkader is playing on their top line. Just putting that out there.

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