Game Day Preview #27, Carolina Hurricanes @ Los Angeles Kings

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Game Time: 7:30 PM Pacific
TV: Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Canes Country

Kovalchuk’s Ankle Thing

Willie Desjardins clarified Ilya Kovalchuk’s “ankle thing” that kept him out of the lineup on Friday as an infection rather than any sort of sprain or other injury. More information is supposed to come from the team later today regarding his status, but he’s expected to miss today’s game. An ankle infection is perhaps the least glamorous, worst possible way to solve the Kovalchuk conundrum, but it has at least taken Desjardins off of the “why don’t you play him more” hot seat. And depending on what the ailment is, it could perhaps explain some of Kovalchuk’s ineffectiveness when he did play recently, particularly if it impacts his mobility in some way.

Regardless, if Kovalchuk is to be out for any amount of time, that does give additional motivation for the Kings to have claimed Nikita Scherbak off of waivers. With no other real viable forwards in Ontario who are ready for the NHL, the Kings are going to be in need of bodies to put on the ice. Even if Scherbak can’t find his way in Los Angeles’ system, he’s infinitely more NHL ready than the collection of not-quite-there-yet players on the Reign.

More Shots? Maybe?

Hey, so:

That’s not great.

The 4-1 final score of the Kings’ matchup against the Flames is deceptive for a few reasons. First, for the disparity in shot volume, you’d think the Flames score would have been a lot higher. Second, four goals against makes it seem like Cal Petersen had a dismal showing, until you realize that two of those goals came into an empty net, and one was on the power play.

The first goal against is one that Petersen certainly would like a do-over on, but he stood tall after that, stopping everything he saw (and probably even a few things he didn’t really see) until Johnny Gaudreau’s third period power play goal. There are lots of things that loss could be pinned on, but Cal Petersen certainly isn’t one of them.

The lack of shots — both on Friday and overall for the season — is concerning for the Kings. We’re used to a Kings team under Darryl Sutter that would put up 40 shots in a night and still come away with a loss. They played a quantity-not-quality game there, and part of the hope with moving to John Stevens was that there would be more of a focus on taking quality shots rather than just shooting straight into the crest on the goalie’s jersey. That worked, for a little while at least, but now, the Kings aren’t taking shots of any kind, quality or no. They were credited with just five high danger shot chances in the game against the Flames — the Flames had five in the third period alone.

If anything needs to be the focus of the Kings, perhaps even more so than special teams, it’s gaining the zone and then actually doing something with the puck. Goals don’t come if you’re just passing along the perimeter.

The Opposition

As the story goes every season, the jury’s still out on whether the Carolina Hurricanes are actually any good. Their record says “meh” and that might be just about right. They’re 12-9-4 on the season, sitting at fourth in the Metropolitan Division, just one point behind the third place Islanders.

Long the home of endless goalie woes, the Hurricanes solved that problem for now by waiving Scott Darling, who signed a four-year contract in 2017 with the intent of being the Hurricanes’ next starter. However, Darling has dealt with injuries and difficulty adjusting to the starters’ role with Carolina’s system, combined with being out of shape and unprepared to play last season. He’s been outplayed by Petr Mrazek, who’s looking to rehab his own career after his time in Detroit and Philadelphia, and Curtis McElhinney, picked up on waivers from Toronto after Darling was injured.

The Hurricanes boast one of the league’s more exciting young talents up front, with Sebastian Aho leading the team with 26 points. Teuvo Teravainen has continued to blossom since being traded from the Blackhawks; he’s second on the team with 18 points. And offseason acquisitions Micheal Ferland and Dougie Hamilton have fit in seamlessly. Ferland leads the team in goals and Hamilton has provided a stabilizing presence on the blue line.

The Hurricanes lead the league in shots per game, with a truly ridiculous 38.9, and they allow the least amount of shots per game, sitting at 27.6, tied with the Vegas Golden Knights. So if you thought the Kings’ effort against the Calgary Flames on Friday (14 shots total! I’m still mad!) was depressing, well, hang on, because it can always get worse.

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