Game Day Preview #46, Los Angeles Kings @ New York Islanders
We hardly knew ye, JF Berube
Preview: Los Angeles Kings (22-19-4) @ New York Islanders (18-17-8)
Here’s a familiar story: the Kings lose a young goalie for one reason or another (trade, waivers, accidentally left him behind at the airport, alien abduction, the usual). It’s not the end of the world at the time. There are other goalies in the system, right? It’ll be fine. Everything’s fine. (Right up until the moment you have no goalie prospects left.)
Well. Hello, JF Berube. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you. While Berube never played with the Kings proper, he did backstop the then-AHL Manchester Monarchs to the Calder Cup in 2015. The Kings signed Jhonas Enroth to a back-up gig for the 2015-16 season and waived Berube and -- there he went. Bye bye, baby goalie.
Berube is still relatively unproven at the NHL level, despite being up with the Islanders for much of the time. In an attempt to prove that there’s always a way to make life more complicated, the Islanders have spent significant time with three goalies on their roster, with Berube most often filling the role of back-up or healthy scratch. Having resolved their three-goalie carousel by waiving Jaroslav Halak (we remember you fondly, Team Europe), Berube should be getting more playing time -- except that now, Thomas Greiss has established himself as a serviceable starter. Berube has played in five games this season, starting twice, with the rest of his appearances in relief. His last start was back on December 18 in a loss against the Senators. So he’s rusty and untested. Great.
So the three-goalie rotation was a bit chaotic, but so is just about everything about the Islanders this season, who have already fired their coach and are looking to reset and save their season. Things have been looking better for them recently, with two shutouts in a row from Greiss and wins in five of their last ten. Sure, they’re still dead last in the East -- which actually feels preposterous to me, but here we are -- but could strong performances against Dallas and Boston mean that the tide is finally turning?
For the Kings, they look to dust themselves off after a disappointing loss to the Sharks. The effort was there, this time, but the goals weren’t, which is a familiar story these days. This game kicks off a four-game away stretch, with a handful of games against Eastern Conference teams that should be easily winnable.
Should be, I guess, is the key. The Kings, currently three spots out of a playoff spot, have been abysmal on the road, going 8-11-3 on the season. They don’t face another team above them in the Pacific until they take on the Ducks in mid-February, so the Kings are truly in control of their own destiny at this point. The only other Pacific team they see in the next month are the Coyotes, who are pretty well out of contention for a playoffs spot by now. All the Kings can do on this east coast swing is bank points and hope that no one gets too wild back west.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
King - Kopitar - Gaborik
Pearson - Carter - Brown
Andreoff - Dowd - Lewis
Clifford - Shore - Nolan
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - Gravel
New York Islanders
Lee - Tavares - Bailey
Beauvillier - Nelson - Strome
Gionta - Quine - Chimera
Prince - Cizikas - Kulemin
Leddy - Pelech
Hickey - Mayfield
de Haan - Seidenberg
Opposing Preview: Lighthouse Hockey