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Game Day Preview #77, Calgary Flames @ Los Angeles Kings

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Welcome back.... Nick Shore??

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Calgary Flames Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

Preview: Calgary Flames (35-31-10) @ Los Angeles Kings (41-28-7)

Game Time: 7:30 PM, FS-W

The Kings don’t have to win out the rest of the season to punch their ticket to the playoffs, but let’s face it, their journey there would be a lot easier if they could string a win or two together. Maybe, like. Four, five wins. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Since the beginning of the month, the Kings have done absolutely nothing consecutively. Their record? W-L-W-L-W-OTL-W-L-OTW-OTL-W-L

This is the worst time of year to go on a streak whose only real characteristic is how it’s consistent in its absolute inconsistency. But here we are.

If the anti-streak holds, the Kings would walk away with a win tonight. And on paper, that sounds feasible, as the Flames are without their top three scorers. Johnny Gaudreau is on a leave dealing with a family issue, and Sean Monahan and Matthew Tkachuk are both injured. Mike Smith is possibly regressing back to the version of him known best by Coyotes watchers; he’s allowed three or more goals in four of his last five games, all losses. (The fifth game? He shutout the Oilers.) The most infuriating thing about Smith, for fans and enemies alike, has to be that you never entirely know which version of him you’re going to get on any given night, regardless of how the team in front of him plays.

Speaking of the team in front of him, at least one Flames reporter listed Nick Shore’s line as the top line. Nick Shore! Fill-in first line center!

In case you missed it, the Senators traded Shore at the deadline, and after the acquisition, the Flames have promptly healthy scratched him for most of his tenure with the team. Putting him back in the lineup tonight is as much a matter of need — again, literally everyone on the Flames is injured — as it is giving him the start against his old team.

Leave your predictions in the comments as to whether or not Shore, like nearly all former Kings tend to do.

For the Kings, John Stevens continues his mild tinkering with the lines, shifting around the Rieder/Pearson/Toffoli trio, looking for some balance of those three between two lines. Rieder’s speed does make him a good complement for Jeff Carter, and as the two get more familiar with each other, their play’s looked better, too. If Rieder could play every game like it was that Colorado matchup, he’d go a long way towards solidifying his place in the lineup.

After the loss in Edmonton, Jake Muzzin talked about how the team hasn’t been emotionally ready to start games. No matter what the reason, the Kings first period record speaks for itself: 47 goals for in the first (29th in the league), 72 goals against (28th). The goals against tally drops dramatically over the rest of the game (55 in the second, first in the league; 56 in the third, tied for second in the league). Is it too late now to figure out what ails the Kings in the first five to ten minutes of a game? Probably, yeah. But it sure would be nice to see them try.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Rieder - Carter - Toffoli
Pearson - Kempe - Lewis
Clifford - Thompson - Mitchell

Forbort - Doughty
Martinez - Phaneuf
Muzzin - Folin

Quick
(Campbell)

Calgary Flames

Frolik - Backlund - Brouwer
Bennett - Shore - Lazar
Ferland - Jankowski - Stewart
Glass - Stajan - Hathaway

Giordano - Hamilton
Stone - Hamonic
Kulak - Andersson

Smith
(Gillies)

Opposing Preview: Matchsticks & Gasoline