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Game Day Preview #55, Los Angeles Kings @ Tampa Bay Lightning

It’s my birthday so the nice thing to do would be to win this game

Tampa Bay Lightning v Los Angeles Kings Photo by Noah Graham/NHLI via Getty Images

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (30-19-5) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (37-14-3)

Game Time: 4:00 PM, FS-W

Puck drop is imminent, so we’ll make this one quick.

Depth Scoring

The Kings bottom six proved that not all hope is lost for them to contribute on the score sheet, with goals from Nick Shore and Jonny Brodzinski last night. A repeat performance tonight could go a long way towards beating the top team in the league. And they’re going to have to do it without Trevor Lewis, who’s gone back to LA to be evaluated after taking a spill into the boards last night.

Presumably, Marian Gaborik will draw back into the lineup in his place. And while I’d like to see Mike Amadio get back in soon, the Andreoff/Shore/Brodzinski line was surprisingly good, and I don’t know that tinkering with them right now is the best plan.

League’s Best

Tonight will see two of the league’s top defensemen in Drew Doughty and Victor Hedman. Hedman had a strong case as a Norris contender until he missed some time with injury; if you ask me, he should still be in the conversation, but he dropped off of some midseason lists. Regardless, he’s a threat in all areas of the ice — even on offense, as he leads all Lightning defensemen in points (36 points).

As if Hedman isn’t enough, forward Nikita Kucherov leads the league in points (68). Steven Stamkos isn’t far behind him (62). Andrei Vasilevskiy leads the league in wins (32). The Lightning have a ridiculous 3.56 goals per game (the Kings, with 2.85, are just under the league average). Rookie Yanni Gourde has both a great name and 40 points. Second year NHLer Brayden Point has already eclipsed his rookie year points totals and was honored with a selection to the All-Star Game. They’ve got four 20+ goal scorers, with two more knocking on the door. The Kings have one (Anze Kopitar).

In short, the Lightning are a scary team, and they’ve stood atop the league standings for nearly all the season with good reason. They’re a delight to watch — any other night of the year, that is.

Play Smart

The Kings need to play smart. The Lightning are absolutely a team that will pounce on the smallest mistake. While the Kings were able to ride a strong return performance from Jonathan Quick last night, the Panthers also just don’t have the skill up and down the lineup that the Lightning do. Much as when the Kings faced off against the Lightning earlier in the season and were very soundly defeated (5-2), this is a game against a true Cup contender and statistical favorite. This is the kind of game that shows you what a team’s really made of.

An Honor

Vinny Lecavalier will have his number retired tonight, a fitting tribute for a great player last seen wearing a Kings uniform. Puck drop will be slightly delayed because of the festivities, but tune in on time to honor Lecavalier’s great career.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo-Kopitar-Toffoli
Pearson-Kempe-Brown
Gaborik-Mitchell-Clifford
Andreoff-Shore-Brodzinski

Forbort-Doughty
Muzzin-LaDue
Martinez-Folin

Quick
(Kuemper)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Gourde - Stamkos - Johnson
Killorn - Point - Kucherov
Erne - Namestnikov - Conacher
Kunitz - Peca - Callahan

Hedman - Stralman
Sergachev - Girardi
Coburn - Sustr

Vasilevskiy
(Domingue)

Opposing Preview: Raw Charge