Preview: Los Angeles Kings (20-11-3) @ Philadelphia Flyers (14-11-7)
Game Time: 4:00 PM, FS-W
The Kings playing in Philadelphia always gives the media a plethora of content, given that the Kings for a time were functioning a bit as “Philly East”. But with Mike Richards having absconded to a cabin in the woods and Jeff Carter working on growing a bionic leg (this may not be a factual statement), all we’ve got left is John Stevens. Fortunately, Stevens is a good quote, far better than Richards or Carter are when it comes to talking about the Flyers. If you’d like to read some quality reminiscing from the Kings’ coach, spend some time with this piece from NHL.com’s Adam Kimelman, or this piece from Jon Rosen.
The Kings roll into Philly at perhaps the exact wrong time, though. The Flyers fanbase was ready to fire coach Dave Hakstol just a few weeks ago, after enduring an epic losing streak where nothing on the team seemed to be clicking at all. Their fortunes have swung in the complete opposite direction, however, and they’ve now got the second-longest active win streak in the NHL, looking to extend it to seven games tonight against the Kings.
For as much as everything was going wrong for the Flyers in November, almost everything is clicking in December. Scoring’s largely been spread out, but Jakub Voracek leads the team with ten assists over the month, Michael Raffl has three game-winning goals, Shayne Gostisbehere leads the team’s defensemen in shots (19) and points (five, including both goals in their win against the Stars).
Even special teams have been strong since the start of the month. The power play is ninth in the league for December, converting 21.42% of the time, and the penalty kill has been very strong, with a 90.9% success rate; the Flyers have only allowed one goal while shorthanded. (The Kings’ PK is still first in the league overall but they’ve struggled this month, allowing six goals against.)
Goalie Brian Elliott is doing what he usually does, and coming back on the upswing of a streaky patch. Elliott was named a league star of the week in honor of his 3-0-0 record, where he allowed no more than two goals in each game played. He has a so-so record in his career against the Kings, going 5-6-2 with 2.25 goals allowed. So the key to this game is going to be keeping pucks out of the Kings’ net, since once Elliott’s on a tear like this, it’s hard to get much past him.
Should we talk about the sputtering penalty kill? Is now the time? Does it hurt too much? The Kings’ penalty kill has predictably come back to earth from its lofty heights at the start of the season. They’ve allowed a goal while shorthanded in six of their last ten games; three of those are in their road trip losing streak here, and at least for the New York games, that goal allowed could have been the difference maker for the Kings to actually escape out of the game with an extra point or two.
With the exception of the game against the Devils, it’s not particularly that they’ve been playing poorly. They’ve executed well, but a few poorly-timed mistakes have cost them (a Folin miscue against the Rangers; an Iafallo turnover against the Islanders). And no one’s been able to get that one last goal to compensate for the mistake, so: three losses and one point.
Based on the morning skate today, the Kings have shuffled up their lines somewhat, promoting Marian Gaborik back to his Vintage 2014 Kings Spot alongside Anze Kopitar and Dustin Brown. Alex Iafallo, who, despite his mistake in the last game, still plays hard and strong against the boards and has good on-ice vision, takes on a more defensive role alongside Nick Shore and Trevor Lewis. The fourth line in practice looks like it’s not really designed to utilize anyone’s strengths, so don’t expect them to get much ice time. Kurtis MacDermid, whose relative lack of footspeed has been exposed more often recently, particularly against the Rangers, looks to be sitting again, replaced by the much more mobile Oscar Fantenberg. (Fantenberg had a very special visitor in the crowd for his goal against the Islanders, by the way: his grandfather made the trip to the US for the first time and got to see that goal in person.)
.@OscarFantenberg‘s second NHL goal may be more memorable than his first, as his 89-year-old grandfather, making his first trip to the U.S., got to see his grandson score in person 🇸🇪 pic.twitter.com/YIjIXVHuzU
— LA Kings (@LAKings) December 17, 2017
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Gaborik – Kopitar – Brown
Pearson – Kempe – Toffoli
Iafallo – Shore – Lewis
Andreoff – Mitchell – Brodzinski
Muzzin – Doughty
Fantenberg – Martinez
Forbort – Folin
Giroux – Courturier – Simmonds
Raffl – Filppula – Voracek
Weal – Patrick – Weise
Leier – Laughton – Konecny
Provorov – MacDonald
Gostisbehere – Hagg
Sanheim – Gudas
Opposing Preview: Broad Street Hockey