Game Time: 10:00 AM, NHLN, FS-W
The Kings haven’t won in Buffalo since 2003. You’re probably reading this on a device that didn’t exist yet (the iPhone was released in 2007). It is a very long, very miserable streak, particularly considering how awful some of the recent iterations of the Buffalo Sabres have been.
This year’s version of the Sabres is bad, too, dead last in the East, losing six of their last ten games. And they’re without Jack Eichel, who’s out with a high ankle sprain.
And yet, their four wins recently came against the Lightning (first in the league), the Bruins (third), the Islanders (currently in a wild card spot), and the Canucks (they are a team that exists). When strong teams think they can underestimate the Sabres, that’s usually what happens.
So here come the Kings, riding a three game losing streak, where they managed to find three different ways to lose — ineffective comeback, completely blown out, and good-but-not-good-enough. They showed signs of starting to put their game back together in Pittsburgh, where the two non-empty-net goals came 1) off a turnover and 2) off a deflected puck on a power play. The team overall played a tight game against the Penguins, and Jonathan Quick was in top form. In an ideal world, this would be a sign of the Kings righting the ship and putting their game back together.
In the real world — we’ll find out in a couple of hours.
For the Sabres, even though they’re without Eichel, they still have forwards who can score. Ryan O’Reilly is second on the team in points (43) and goals (18). Evander Kane isn’t far behind him. The top line of Kane, O’Reilly, and Sam Reinhart have combined for eight goals and seven assists over their last five games. O’Reilly and Reinhart have each had multi-point games in that span. The drop-off from the first line is significant, though, so containing them will be key to limiting the Sabres’ chances. There are conflicting reports over who will start in net; Robin Lenher has the better record this season, but Chad Johnson has two career wins over the Kings. Johnson most likely gets the nod this afternoon.
The Kings are starting to see themselves slip further away from a playoffs spot. A win in Buffalo would be huge, both for the playoff implications and to end two disappointing losing streaks.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Brodzinski - Mitchell - Clifford
Andreoff - Thompson - Amadio
Muzzin - Doughty
Phaneuf - Martinez
Forbort - Folin
Kane - O’Reilly - Reinhart
Pouliot - Rodrigues - Okposo
Wilson - Larsson - Pominville
Girgensons - Josefson - Nolan
Beaulieu - Ristolainen
Scandella - Nelson
Falk - Antipin
Opposing Preview: Die By The Blade