Game Day Preview #33, Los Angeles Kings @ New York Rangers

Let’s party like it’s 2014!

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (20-9-3) @ New York Rangers (16-12-3)

Game Time: 4:00 PM, FS-W

I have a job for all of you.

It doesn’t have anything to do with the game tonight. (Later this afternoon? Time zones, man.) It does have everything to do with this amazing beanie that someone made Adrian Kempe and Alex Iafallo wear.

I need someone to tell me where to buy one, other than at the NHL store in New York. (And, let’s not lie, I’m not beneath getting on a plane, going to New York, and buying a hat. I’d just rather not have things come to that.)  Have you seen one? To whom can I give my money?

Listen, I have a platform, and I’m going to use it to ask very nicely where I can exchange my money for goods and services. Think of this as the sometimes a bit off topic thirty-first item of Elliotte Friedman’s 31 Thoughts pieces, only front-loaded at the top of your game preview.

Anyway, that’s enough self-indulgent abuse of my semi-mainstream platform.

Aside from Kempe and Iafallo’s trip to NHL headquarters (and some quality time with Gary Bettman), the Kings took some time to be self-indulgent too, striking their normal off-day practice for a little fun on a not-quite-regulation sized rink in New York’s Central Park. Any hockey player who grew up playing on frozen over ponds or makeshift outdoor rinks always gets transported a little back to their childhood in a setting like that, and the team looks like they had a blast playing some three-on-three scrimmages.

Hopefully the Kings feel refreshed, because they’re going to need to come out strong against a hungry Rangers squad. The Rangers have lost their last two, falling to the Stars in a shootout and the Senators in regulation on Wednesday. The Rangers have clawed their way back up into a playoff spot, just barely squeaking past Pittsburgh by virtue of number of games played. The Rangers got off to a slow start this season, losing eight of their first ten, but bounced back quickly, including a winning streak of six games in early November, and wins in six of their last ten. They’ve been led in scoring by Mats Zuccarello (25 points), followed almost surprisingly by second year pro Pavel Bucnhevich (23 points), who’s thriving despite a lack of trust from his coach, and a lack of playing time to go with it.  It might be good for the rest of us to see less of Buchnevich, but from a “put your best players on the ice” perspective, he should be out there much more than he is. Based on practice, Buchnevich may get the bump in ice time he needs, as he skated on the Rangers’ top line.

The Kings look to scratch Jonny Brodzinski, and to reunite the Clifford/Shore/Lewis line which saw some instant chemistry at the start of the season, before Kyle Clifford’s injury. It’s odd to want to see the reunion of what’s essentially a grinder line, but if there’s one thing this team and this fanbase love, it’s guys like that, who play with their whole hearts, and sometimes get goals to boot. All of them have been encouraged to be more creative offensively, and if they can recapture that magic, perhaps they’ll get on the scoresheet again, too.

Marian Gaborik plays his 1000th game tonight, fittingly against his old team. The Kings will celebrate Gaborik when they get back to Los Angeles -- which will delay a celebration of Dustin Brown’s 1000th game. Gaborik has ten goals and 13 points total against the Rangers over his career, though many of those came when he was still a member of the Minnesota Wild. Regardless, he’s had two two-goal games lately, so maybe he could make it happen again tonight.

You know, for old time’s sake.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Gaborik - Mitchell - Jokinen
Clifford - Shore - Lewis

Muzzin - Doughty
MacDermid - Martinez
Forbort - Folin


New York Rangers

Kreider - Desharnais - Buchnevich
Nash - Miller - Zuccarello
Grabner - Hayes - Fast
Carey - Nieves - Vesey

McDonagh - Holden
Skjei - Shattenkirk
Staal - Smith


Opposing Preview: Blue Shirt Banter