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Game Day Preview #60, Los Angeles Kings @ Winnipeg Jets

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NHL: Winnipeg Jets at Los Angeles Kings Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (32-22-5) @ Winnipeg Jets (35-15-9)

Game Time: 5:00 PM, FS-W

The Kings have gone 3-3-0 on their road trip, a respectable tally but not quite what you’d hope for from a team hoping to scratch back into the playoffs picture. They have a chance to end it tonight with a winning record, but to do that, they have to get through the Jets, who have finally emerged from years of mediocrity to be one of the best teams in the league.

Right now, the Jets are fighting to top the Central, and are only three points back from Vegas for best in the West. They’ve won six of their last ten and are riding a three-game winning streak, including a dominant 6-1 win over the Avalanche last week. They’ve had a few clunkers (a 3-1 loss to the Rangers, who are in the midst of selling off what parts they can move, stands out) but overall, they’re a deep team who can inflict damage on any line they roll. I mean, Patrik Laine is on the third line! Perhaps the Jets’ fourth line is the only one without a true offensive threat, with Joel Armia having ten goals to his name but none since February 1.

Fortunately for the Kings, their fourth line has been surprisingly effective lately. The Andreoff/Amadio/Brodzinski trio have four goals and six assists over the last five games. Having your star players live up to their expectations is what drives a team, but depth contributions help put any team over the top. With Tanner Pearson (four goals and five assists since the start of 2018) and Tyler Toffoli (two goals and three assists in that time span) still struggling with consistency, the only truly reliable scorer has been Anze Kopitar (eight goals and 15 assists). Players like Amadio, Brodzinski, and even the temporarily-bumped-up Torrey Mitchell are going to need to continue to produce if the Kings want to make a run for the playoffs.

In their past two games, the Kings played a solid 40 minutes and then sat back to allow the Sabres and the Blackhawks the opportunity to try to claw back into the game. With struggling team like that, the Kings still managed to come out on top. If they try the same stunt with the Jets — presuming they get a lead and hold it — they’re probably not going to be as successful. The team has been playing better since the loss to the Hurricanes, but all it takes is one sloppy period to undo all that hard work.

There wasn’t a morning practice today, so there’s no clear picture on lines, but it’s doubtful that there will be any changes. Michael Mersch is the only spare forward, and there’s no real candidate to be removed for him to draw in, given how well the bottom six (with bonus Tyler Toffoli) have been clicking recently. Logic says that Darcy Kuemper starts tonight, but would anyone really be surprised if Jonathan Quick gets both starts in this back-to-back?

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Mitchell
Clifford - Thompson - Toffoli
Andreoff - Amadio - Brodzinski

Forbort - Doughty
Phaneuf - Martinez
Muzzin - Folin

Kuemper
(Quick)

Winnipeg Jets

Connor - Scheifele - Wheeler
Perreault - Little - Roslovic
Ehlers - Copp - Laine
Petan - Hendricks - Armia

Morrissey - Myers
Enstrom - Byfuglien
Chiarot - Kulikov

Hellebuyck
(Comrie)

Opposing Preview: Arctic Ice Hockey