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Game Day Preview #53, Edmonton Oilers @ Los Angeles Kings

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Game plan: Stop McDavid

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Edmonton Oilers Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Edmonton Oilers (23-24-4) @ Los Angeles Kings (28-19-5)

Game Time: 7:30 PM, FS-W

A word’s been thrown around a lot here lately, in the comments and among writers and on Twitter: Identity.

Who are the Kings? What kind of team do they want to be? At the team’s most basic level, how would you describe them?

We know what the team says. That they want to be hard to play against. Puck-possession game. Defense-first. Physical. Play the game the right way. Pick a hockey buzz phrase, they’ve said it.

Sometimes, they achieve it — they certainly did against both Dallas and Arizona.

But there’s another word that’s gone around a lot: Inconsistency.

Outside of that dominant stretch of play at the beginning of the season, inconsistency has practically become the Kings’ identity. You never know, from one night to the other, which team you’re going to get.

Will it be every man for himself? A failure to execute even the simplest of strategic plays? Or will the players come together and actually commit to sticking with the plan?

We’ll see what happens tonight, when the Kings face off against the Edmonton Oilers, whose blog could probably write this exact piece. The Oilers have been impossible to pin down all season; at times they have a dreadful failure to execute, but they also dismantled the (somewhat shorthanded) Tampa Bay Lightning the other night in a 6-2 win.

The Oilers’ playoff hopes are all but dashed this year, but they’ve still won five of their last ten. Connor McDavid is, and will always be, well … Connor McDavid; he’s got 61 points on the year, miles ahead of the next player down the list (Leon Draisaitl, 45 points). If you want to shut down the Oilers, you mostly need to shut down McDavid, something the Kings have done an admirable job of since the young phenom joined the league. McDavid has two goals and five assists in a total of nine career games against the Kings. (He scored four goals in one game against the Lightning on Monday. Just saying.)

A win in this game would give the Kings two very important points and would vault them back up into the third seed in the Pacific. This leapfrog game with Calgary just goes on and on, doesn’t it?

And the Kings are going to be doing it with Darcy Kuemper in net. Yes, yes, insert all the caveats here about Jonathan Quick being this team’s starter, no question about it, no goalie controversy here, but Kuemper has two straight shut-outs. He’s looked outstanding in all of his recent outings. Yes, it’s imperative for Quick to get his groove back, but right now, Kuemper is playing with strength and confidence and it’s in the team’s best interests to ride that as long as possible.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

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

Forbort-Doughty
Muzzin-LaDue
Gravel-Folin

Kuemper
(Quick)

Edmonton Oilers

Cammalleri-McDavid-Draisaitl
Lucic-Khaira-Puljujarvi
Maroon-Strome-Caggiula
Pakarinen-Letestu-Kassian

Nurse-Russell
Klefbom-Benning
Sekera-Davidson

Talbot
(Montoya)

Opposing Preview: Copper and Blue