Game Day Preview #26, Los Angeles Kings @ Calgary Flames
Young rookie goalie vs. Mike Smith. Who’ve you got?
HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 6:00 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Matchsticks and Gasoline
The first line is clicking again. Anze Kopitar has eight points in his last five games; Dustin Brown has six points in that time span. For all the speculation about who is/is not playing injured, Kopitar and Brown have turned up the heat. We all know what a good season from both of them can do for the team, and so having them be at their best is crucial for the Kings to get back on track. (Yes, the pessimist’s take is that they help prop up an otherwise unspectacular lineup, and that is certainly true. But also sometimes it’s nice to watch players you like put some pucks in some nets.)
Last night’s loss hurt in that it was a game where the Kings overall played well, but just couldn’t seal the deal. The late penalty from Alex Iafallo didn’t help matters — and the continued struggles of the Kings’ penalty kill made it worse. It was a game the Kings easily could have gotten at least a point out of.
So, in other words, the kind of loss Kings fans are used to from past seasons, as opposed to just all-out incompetence that we’ve seen this year.
The loss didn’t quite approach “moral victory” territory — the Kings’ mistakes came back to bite them in a big way in this one. It’s not like they went up against a hot goalie or were witness to a phenomenal performance from an otherwise unheralded player. But it was heartening to see effort. Based on some of those early-season losses, I was starting to think there was too big of a task for the Kings.
One More Go-Round
Cal Petersen gets another spin in the crease tonight, possibly the last time we’ll see him until the Kings have another back to back in early December (the 10th and 11th, for those playing along at home). With Jack Campbell probably out another few weeks (he’s about three weeks into a projected four-to-six week rehab period), the backup spot is all Petersen’s.
Seeing what Petersen looks like in net after having some days off will be interesting, as he’s had a heavy load in his appearances so far. This is where his college and AHL experience can come in handy, as play at that level frequently sees long layoffs between games.
Petersen will have to be sharp; Calgary is full of dangerous shooters all up and down their lineup. The Flames have scored 22 goals in five games, with one of the five being a shutout. So, 22 goals, four games. No big deal. Right?
Good luck, Cal!
Did you know the Flames are first in the Pacific? It’s just by one point, as San Jose, Vegas, and Anaheim are right behind, all tied with 29 points. But still, wouldn’t it feel good to keep them from advancing that lead any?
The last time these teams met, the Flames won off the back of an early goal from defenseman Travis Hamonic. That was it, that was all the scoring. Jack Campbell was phenomenal, turning away 35 of 36 shots that he faced. The performance is even more impressive once it emerged that this is the game in which Campbell suffered his torn meniscus.
The Kings, meanwhile, couldn’t muster many shots on goalie David Rittich, who stopped all 21 Kings shots that made it through to him. The Kings have generally been doing better at putting pucks on the net, and tonight, they’ll find themselves shooting on Mike Smith, who seems to have a bad game against every team except for the Kings.
Smith is 6-7-1 on the season, with a 3.29 goals against average and a 0.883 save percentage. At this point in his career, we all know who Mike Smith is and what his game is. If the Kings can frustrate him early and put a lot of shots on him, the floodgates may open. But that’s going to take another full team effort to get past Calgary’s stifling defense.
Do the Kings have it in them tonight?