Game Day Preview #32, Los Angeles Kings @ Columbus Blue Jackets

I’m going to watch this one at home while wearing my Jeff Carter CBJ jersey.

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (16-13-2) @ Columbus Blue Jackets (20-5-1)

How to Watch and What to Watch For

Being a Kings fan who a) came late to the party and b) lives a good couple thousand miles away, I don’t get the chance to see them often on their home turf. My first trip out west was last season, and my first home game was a Kings/Blue Jackets game. This one, in fact.

In case your memory fails you, that was the game where the Blue Jackets took zero shots in the second period, Jonathan Quick started a scrum, Scott Hartnell basically sat on Jeff Carter, and the Kings still lost to a team that got a top-three draft pick. It was, by my estimation, the perfect First Kings Game.

This is definitely not the same Blue Jackets team that I saw last year, though. They’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now, fifth in the league in points (and just four back of the top spot) and owners of a nine-game winning streak, including a gutsy win against Vancouver, hanging on after surrendering three goals in the third to win in overtime. No one expected the Blue Jackets to be here, and there’s been much discussion over whether they’re legit or not. But at the end of the day, their scorers are finding the back of the net -- see: the breakout year of Alexander Wennberg -- and they’re being driven by a resurgence on the blue line. Zach Werenski and Seth Jones could be dropped onto any team’s defense rotation and immediately make them better. Those two are eating up major minutes and facing tough competition, giving the Blue Jackets a new confidence on the back end.

After an embarrassing drubbing in Buffalo, the Kings seem to have remembered who they are. Low event, defense first, you know the drill -- the kind of stuff that makes east coast matinee games less than a thriller (looking at you, Boston). For the first time in ages, the Blue Jackets are going to be stiff competition, so the Kings can’t try to coast through the first period of this one and hope to play catch-up later.

There aren’t many changes on the Kings’ end. Dustin Brown is still out with a vague yet allegedly minor injury, and Kyle Clifford will sit as well. Marian Gaborik draws back in after being a healthy scratch for what’s believed to be the first time in his tenure with the Kings. It’d be great if the former Blue Jacket could pitch in and find his scoring touch again tonight.

It’d be even better if he could pitch in and do it five times.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Gaborik - Kopitar - Lewis
King - Carter - Toffoli
Pearson - Dowd - Setoguchi
Andreoff - Shore - Nolan

Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
Gravel - Greene


Columbus Blue Jackets

Saad - Wennberg - Foligno
Jenner - Dubinsky - Atkinson
Calvert - Karlsson - Anderson
Hartnell - Sedlak - Gagner

Werenski - Jones
Johnson - Savard
Murray - Nutivaara


Opposing Preview: The Cannon