HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 4:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: The Cannon
These bad stretches — and of course, there have been many this season for the Kings — always seem to follow a similar framework. You’ve got your embarrassing loss (6-3 to New Jersey). A bounce-back, feel-good win (5-1 over Vegas). A loss where you did everything but score (3-1 to Detroit, 43 shots on Jimmy freakin’ Howard). An oops (4-3 to Buffalo).
At some point — usually fairly close to the moral victory sort of loss — a team manages to put things together for a long enough period to string together a win. Or maybe two wins. Or — practically unfathomable in this season — three. Three whole wins! Count them!
At least we’ve gotten to this point without having whispered conversations about whether the team is fragile. Plenty of justified conversations about the compete level of the team, about the ability to put together a full 60 minutes. But rarely, if at all, has anyone busted out the f-word this season.
Things have, in some ways, been looking up. Just on the basis of the eye test alone, the Kings at least have looked more engaged. Sometimes, they even look ready to play from puck drop. Again, make no mistake, this isn’t a great team. Despite our hope, every year, of the team just making the playoffs and seeing what happens from there, the odds are not particularly in our favor on this one. But at least they generally look like they’re trying to figure out what’s going wrong.
Does tonight’s tilt in Columbus mark the start of another one of those cycles of at least looking competent? We’ve got the oops loss behind us, the moral victory passed already. We’ve got a team that put together the pieces to win but just couldn’t pull it out. On the roller coaster that is this season, the Kings are no stranger to the cycle of “win one, lose two”, and if so, we’re due for the feel-good win tonight.
Drew Doughty appears to be in tonight, after leaving the game early in Buffalo. His injury has turned out to not be serious, and although apparently there was some swelling in his hand, it’s subsided enough that he’s cleared to play. That’s a relief for the Kings’ blue line, who can only do so much in the absence of their top blueliner.
Dion Phaneuf has returned to Los Angeles for additional evaluation, so he’s out tonight. Paul LaDue is expected to draw back in. Daniel Brickley rotated on the third pairing; my best guess is that he’s out tonight, given that he’s not really a known commodity to Willie Desjardins yet, but that he could draw in later on the road trip, particularly if LaDue or Sean Walker falter tonight.
Forward lines appear to be the same as they ever were, especially since there are no additional forwards.
Good luck, Jonathan Quick.
The biggest difference in Columbus’ performance this year, as opposed to prior years, is quite possibly goaltending.
While no one wants to make too much of a big deal out of the fact that Sergei Bobrovsky does not have a new contract and very likely will hit free agency at the end of the season, it also can’t be ignored that Bobrovsky is having a down year this season.
Bob looks weak this year after two very strong years. Korpisalo hasn't faced anywhere near the same number of shots but has never looked good. pic.twitter.com/4PvQRjyrRo— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) December 13, 2018
That doesn’t bode well for the Blue Jackets now, and it doesn’t particularly bode well for Bobrovsky getting the payday that he may want in free agency, when the time comes.
The other looming storyline for the Blue Jackets is the status of Artemi Panarin, and where he’ll be be come the trade deadline, let alone the start of free agency. Panarin is on pace for a career low in goals, scoring just seven in his 29 games so far. With some Kings fans clamoring to be in the running for Panarin’s services next season, this is another opportunity to watch the talented Russian winger and dream about what could be.
The Blue Jackets have lost two in a row and six of their last ten. One of those losses was a 9-6 loss to the Calgary Flames, which, combined, is a number of goals I personally find completely unfathomable. What’s it like to score nine goals? That sounds completely, super fake.