Game Day Preview #24, Los Angeles Kings @ Vancouver Canucks

We literally just did this.


Game Time: 7:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Nucks Misconduct

Let’s Just Get This Out Of The Way

Now, I’m no NHL coach but you would think giving your leading scorer less and less ice time in order to make him defend better is … not exactly the way to get him to continue scoring.

It’s been detailed everywhere in the Kings blogosphere, but Ilya Kovalchuk was a point-per-game player until Willie Desjardins came in. Aside from a three-point night against the Ducks — Desjardins’ first game, one in which he didn’t try to tweak things too much so he could get a feel for where the team was at — Kovalchuk has registered zero points.

The explanation for his six minutes and change of ice time against the Oilers? Line matching to keep him away from McDavid. Protecting a lead. It’s okay because Kovalchuk has the right attitude. Et cetera, et cetera…

The Kings knew what Kovalchuk was when they signed him — a gifted player with the puck. Maybe not so great without the puck. You know that, and you find a way to compensate for it. John Stevens, for all that he didn’t have answers for much of what ailed the Kings, at least found ways to put Kovalchuk in a position to succeed. You give him heavy offensive zone starts, keep him out of the defensive zone, and set him up in a good spot on the power play.

Instead, Desjardins has taken Kovalchuk off the first power play unit, rarely gives extended time to the second unit, and has put him on the fourth line. No better way to get your offensive sniper going than by putting him on a line with a player who gets some of the most defensive zone starts in the league (Nate Thompson) and, for tonight at least, a rookie (Sheldon Rempal).

Desjardins’ usage of Kovalchuk is absolutely nonsensical. On a team starved for offense, benching someone you signed specifically for his offensive prowess is not a recipe for success.

It’s one thing to find yourself on a team that’s struggling when you were told a story that they would actually be competitive. It’s another thing entirely to be given six minutes a night with which to try to make an impact on the scoresheet.

This feels like something that’s going to get worse before it gets better — or before Kovalchuk and his camp become so unhappy that he asks for a trade.

Quick (Almost) Back

That’s right, our surgically repaired #1 goalie is on his way back.

It’s been just shy of four weeks since Quick’s injury was announced, which puts him on the same four-to-six week recovery trajectory that was announced for Jack Campbell.

Quick has been taking part in practices and has apparently been deemed healthy enough to play. He’ll back up Cal Petersen tonight, giving him a little time to ease back in, before playing in one of the back-to-backs on Thursday/Friday.

Petersen’s strong play over his tenure with the team has definitely made him deserving of being the goalie to stay up with the Kings, as Peter Budaj has been reassigned to Ontario. While the preference would clearly be to keep him playing regular games rather than sitting on the bench, the organization clearly has more confidence in his play at the NHL level than Budaj right now. And having the chance to spend time with Jonathan Quick has got to be a good opportunity for Petersen, too.

The Opposition

We literally just did this, didn’t we?

The Canucks haven’t played since their match against the Kings, so they’re well-rested and probably confident, even if that confidence is borne of defeating the literal last place team in the league.

For the Canucks, the only real change is the return of Brock Boeser into the lineup. The promising young forward has missed the past 11 games with an adductor strain.

Even in limited appearances this season, Boeser still has 11 points in 13 games, including a four-point effort in his final game before going out with an injury.

As if the Kings didn’t have enough to worry about with, you know, not accidentally turning pucks over to Elias Pettersson, now they’ve got to watch this kid, too.

Quick, Watch This