Preview: Los Angeles Kings (34-24-5) @ Vegas Golden Knights (41-17-4)
Game Time: 7:30 PM, NBCSN
YOU MEAN WE HAVE TO DO THAT AGAIN?
Guys, I’m still not recovered from last night. I think my cats hate me, I was so tense during the end of the third period and overtime last night. I might have shoved one off the couch. Maybe.
But we get to do it all over again. Oh, boy.
Last night was a game that felt like a playoff game — a loud, involved crowd; extremely physical play; a thrilling OT conclusion. The Kings broadcast team kept saying that this game might have saved the Kings’ season. And while that feels a little hyperbolic to me, if the Kings do manage to pull it together down the stretch to make the playoffs, this game against Vegas (and the near-miss loss to Edmonton) might be looked at as a turning point in the season.
Of course, the Kings could just as easily come out flat tonight and struggle, again, only this time they might not have the energy to come back. Last night’s game was a microcosm of all that we’ve seen from the Kings this year: sluggish starts, early goals, poor defensive coverage, a miraculous Jonathan Quick, and a last-minute push. It’s absolutely not a sustainable style of play — remember a few years ago when the Ducks won an absurd, yet unsustainable, number of one goal games? — and yet when the Kings have been at their best this year, they’ve been the kind of team that you’ve been unable to count out, no matter how many goals they’re down.
...... it’s not over.— Jewels from the Crown (@JFTC_Kings) February 27, 2018
Jonathan Quick was arguably the Kings’ most important player on the ice last night. More than Jeff Carter and his nine shots on goal, more than Dustin Brown and his redemptive game winner. Quick was outstanding when the Kings needed him most.
Tonight’s starting goalie is unclear; with a game this important, I could easily see the team making the decision to play Quick again. Jack Campbell clearly has the confidence of the organization to come through in situations like this, but realistically, he’s got a grand total of 80 minutes of NHL experience under his belt — a full game against the Ducks in 2013, when he was still a member of the Dallas Stars organization, and 20 minutes in relief earlier this season. The good news is, he was perfect in those 20 minutes. The bad news is that he only faced five shots.
Andy Andreoff, Paul LaDue, and Kevin Gravel appear to be tonight’s scratches, which means that Kyle Clifford’s in, which means that Ryan Reaves is probably going to try to fight him for his hit on Oscar Lindberg.
Golden Knights are headed to the power play after this hit by Kyle Clifford. pic.twitter.com/ewI6GJQ6UK— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) February 27, 2018
Lindberg didn’t return to the game after that play. Reaves tried to engage Clifford all night but didn’t get the action he wanted. Don’t think for a minute that the Golden Knights have forgotten about that hit, though, especially if Lindberg remains out.
Ryan Reaves wants to break Kyle Clifford. pic.twitter.com/sm6OqeK5MG— Ryan Quigley (@RP_Quigs) February 27, 2018
Also potentially out for the Golden Knights is James Neal, who went awkwardly to the ice after colliding with Jake Muzzin.
Vegas has recalled Tomas Hyka, a 2012 Kings draft pick, who may go tonight in place of Neal or Lindberg. Also expected to play tonight is Tomas Tatar, who has joined the team after being traded from Detroit.
Unsurprisingly, there’s no indication from Vegas on who will be in net. We very easily could see a Quick/Fleury rematch, which is probably just as stressful as I think it will be.
Vegas confirms that Maxime Lagace will start in net tonight.
Coach Gallant said Lagace is expected to start in net tonight— Vegas Golden Knights (@GoldenKnights) February 28, 2018
Lagace started against the Kings in November, a game that Vegas won 4-2.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Thompson - Kempe - Rieder
Clifford - Amadio - Mitchell
Forbort - Doughty
Phaneuf - Martinez
Muzzin - Folin
Vegas Golden Knights
Marchessault - Karlsson - Smith
Perron - Haula - Neal
Tatar - Eakin - Tuch
Nosek - Lindberg - Reaves
Sbisa - Schmidt
Engelland - Theodore
McNabb - Miller
Opposing Preview: Knights on Ice