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Game Day Preview #66, Montreal Canadiens @ Los Angeles Kings

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Can we make it ... [checks notes] ... two wins in a row?

NHL: Los Angeles Kings at Montreal Canadiens Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

HOW TO WATCH

Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West, ESPN+
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Eyes on the Prize

So here’s a fun game to play as the Kings enter the final stretch of the season, one in which they’ll miss the playoffs by an atrocious amount of points: how many games can we just ruin for other teams?

Sure, sure, it’s perhaps a bit nihilistic of a tactic: some real “life is meaningless, eat at Staples Center” sort of stuff. But if you can’t make anything happen for your team — if you’re not finding yourself in a scratch-and-claw-for-points playoff mentality — then embrace being the spoiler.

Don’t think that out-of-the-hunt playoff teams recognize that? Think again:

The Kings have a chance to inject a little chaos into the Eastern Conference playoff standings tonight as they take on the Montreal Canadiens. The Canadiens are quite a way back from the top three in the Atlantic—the Canadiens, in fourth place, have 77 points; the Maple Leafs in third have 86 points. They’re probably not going to make up that ground on Toronto, so they’ve got to battle it out for the wild card spot, engaging in what looks like a fight to the death with the Carolina Hurricanes (78 points), Pittsburgh Penguins (77 points), and Columbus Blue Jackets (75 points, currently out of playoff positioning).

Presuming no one here really cares about Pittsburgh’s or Columbus’ feelings, then consider that a Kings win would help out the Hurricanes, giving them a bit more of a buffer in points even if they drop back down into a wild card position. And if there’s any Eastern Conference team to root for, it’s them. Who wants to see Justin Williams be sad, honestly?

So the Kings have a chance to do a little damage to Montreal’s playoff hopes tonight. But while the Kings are feeling good after snapping a 10-game losing streak against the equally hapless Chicago Blackhawks, Montreal’s going to prove to be stiffer competition. Despite some early struggles—remember that the Kings shut them out on the back of a phenomenal performance from Jack Campbell in November—the Canadiens have been better than expected this season. No one expected them to be pushing for a playoff spot this year, but a bounce-back year from Carey Price, a healthier Shea Weber, and a gigantic chip on everyone’s shoulders has made for quite the surprising team. They’re coming off of a 5-1 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins, one of those burn-the-tape sorts of games, and are going to look to make up some ground.

For the Kings, Alec Martinez is set to return tonight. Kurtis MacDermid and Paul LaDue look to be the extras. Matt Luff was called up on an emergency basis (meaning he doesn’t count against the four total AHL recalls that teams have after the trade deadline) and will step into the lineup due to Austin Wagner’s injury. Former Kings Nate Thompson, Jordan Weal (remember him?), and Christian Folin will suit up tonight for Montreal. Canadiens rookie phenom Jesperi Kotkaniemi will be a healthy scratch tonight; head coach Claude Julien said that Kotkaniemi was showing fatigue in his game and wanted to rest him. Jonathan Quick and Carey Price go head-to-head.

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