Game Day Preview #54, Los Angeles Kings @ Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning haven’t won two in a row since December. Let’s not change that.

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (27-22-4) @ Tampa Bay Lightning (23-24-6)

Live Stream: NBCSN

It’s okay if you want to pretend that last game never happened. I’m imagining some of the players would like to erase that bungled effort against the Capitals, too. We all got up way too early and then had to sit through that debacle.

So, it’s fine if you want to reflect back to the Kings’ last game as being that tilt in Philadelphia. Jeff Carter, with his league leading ninth game winning goal and fourth overtime goal, is a pretty good memory to keep in your head.

I promise, I won’t tell. It’ll be our secret.

There look to be a few lineup changes for the Kings tonight, based on their optional morning skate. Devin Setoguchi will most likely sit in favor of Andy Andreoff, which -- I mean, okay, I guess. After a hot start to the season, Setoguchi has cooled off considerably, despite spending time on just about every line. He played a team low 8:57 in Washington (er, sorry -- in A Game That Didn’t Happen), but still managed to register six shots on goal. Andreoff, meanwhile, continues to be just another guy. He’s got two points on the season, both assists, but what his value added to the team is -- I’m just not sure. Regardless, he looks to be holding down a spot on the bottom six tonight.

Defenseman Paul LaDue will likely make his NHL debut tonight, as Kevin Gravel stayed for extra work at practice this morning. LaDue is in his first year as a pro, skating in 36 games for the Reign. He’s second in scoring for defensemen (if you subtract recent acquisition Cameron Schilling, whose points largely came during his time in Rockford), with six goals and 12 assists on the season.  He’s largely seen as the Kings’ most NHL-ready defensive prospect, and his name has often come up in trade talks as the deadline approaches. The next few games could be an opportunity for the Kings to better assess what they have in LaDue and how he fits in the organization going forward.

For the Lightning, after a string of recent losses -- three in a row (until their shootout win against Anaheim) and seven of their last ten -- there’s been talk of the “fragile team” variety. Injuries and maybe a spot of bad luck have marred the Lightning’s season, leaving them in last place in the East. They’re only seven points out, which isn’t insurmountable, but there are a lot of teams they’re going to have to leapfrog if they want a chance at the playoffs.

Despite all the holes in the Lightning’s lineup -- Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan, and Ondrej Palat are all out -- they’re still a team that’s going to try to beat you with speed and creativity. Tyler Johnson is taking on first line center duties in Stamkos’ absence and is holding down the spot admirably. He’s second on the team in goals (16) and third in points (33). Some of that might be luck -- he’s shooting a remarkable 16%, his highest since a 14-game stint in 2012-13 -- but he’s also just that good.

(Know who else is shooting at just around 16%, also a career high since 2012-13? Jeff Carter. Just sayin’.)

For a great look at what’s plaguing the Lightning this season -- there are issues beyond Stamkos’ absence -- Raw Charge has a great look here at the lineup from top to bottom.

The Lightning are struggling to right their ship, just as the Kings are -- different circumstances, of course, but the goal is the same. Get a win, build some confidence, and take two badly needed points.  Game on.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Gaborik - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Clifford - Dowd - Andreoff
King - Shore - Lewis

Muzzin - Doughty
Forbort - Martinez
McNabb - LaDue


Tampa Bay Lightning

Namestnikov - Johnson - Kucherov
Killorn - Point - Drouin
Brown - Paquette - Dumont
Boyle - Filppula - Vermin

Hedman - Dotchin
Coburn - Stralman
Garrison - Sustr


Opposing Preview: Raw Charge