HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 4:00 PM Pacific
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Lighthouse Hockey
Well, well, well.
It’s been quite a while, hasn’t it?
You know, I almost lulled myself into thinking that perhaps the season was just … over. The playoffs were happening in some sort of alternate universe that wasn’t quite reaching my consciousness, but overall, like, the Kings didn’t have to play again for a while, right?
The Kings season isn’t done. Not even close, really. There are still games and games and games to go, and it doesn’t get much more 2018-19 Los Angeles Kings than having to come out of an extended break by going on an extended road trip. The Kings play their next six games on the road, starting tonight with Long Island.
That’s right, tonight’s Kings’ game against the Islanders is back at the old Nassau Coliseum — wait, excuse me, that’s “NYCB LIVE, Home of The Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum” — and in case you hadn’t noticed recently, the Islanders are pretty good this season. They lead the Metropolitan Division with 64 points, topping the Pittsburgh Penguins and Washington Capitals. Through a sheer combination of luck, the culture change instilled by Barry Trotz, a John Tavares-sized chip on their collective shoulders, and former rookie of the year and possible Disney Prince Mat Barzal, the Islanders are getting it done.
While they lost their last two games — a perplexing shoot-out loss against the not very good Chicago Blackhawks, and a defensive duel to the 1-0 shoot-out loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning — they had a five-game win streak prior to that, and are 6-2-2 in their last 10 games. Concerns over whether the Islanders are for real or not this season seem all but gone as they’ve continued to show themselves to be among the best in the east.
Is Trotz — and goalie guru Mitch Korn — a wizard? Highly likely.
The last time these teams met, the Islanders embarrassed the Kings to the tune of a 7-2 loss. That was early enough in the season where we were still trying to figure out who, exactly, the Kings are — and who the Islanders were, for that matter. Both pictures are a little more clear now. The Kings are sellers as the trade deadline approaches. The Islanders, for the first time in quite a while, are probably going to be looking to bolster their ranks before heading into the playoffs.
It’s a wild world.
For the Kings, they take the ice for the first time in the post-Jake Muzzin era. They went into the break with a quality win against the (also struggling) St. Louis Blues, but it’s going to be hard to predict what this team looks like without one of its top defenders. Given that a coaching change and a trade of a well-liked player didn’t do much to change the sense of urgency on the ice early in the season, it seems doubtful that players are going to be able to pull it together any better now that the team has all but said the word “retool” or “rebuild” or, well, “firesale”.
The first game after a long layoff seems like a scheduled loss anyway; taking the ice without Muzzin and with a team waiting for the next shoe, in a long series of shoes, to drop only increases the probabilities more.
Robin Lehner is in net for the Islanders tonight. Unsurprisingly, no word on who it will be for the Kings.
No Nate Thompson tonight, as he has the flu and did not come with the Kings on this part of the trip. And potentially no Anze Kopitar, either, as he is sick and is currently a game-time decision. Without Kopitar, Willie Desjardins said that Alex Iafallo will move to center, so good luck with that. Matt Luff was skating with the extras (Jonny Brodzinski and Trevor Lewis, both traveling with the team but neither ready to play yet) and would presumably draw in, somewhere, if Kopitar can’t go. Per reports out of practice, Forbort-Doughty was the only consistent defense pairing.
Per Kings, Nate Thompson is not with the team because of flu. Expected to join team at some point on trip. In Long Island, lines look like:— Curtis Zupke (@curtiszupke) February 1, 2019