Game Day Preview #57, Los Angeles Kings @ Pittsburgh Penguins

We have to wait a little longer for Dion Phaneuf, but we’ll see what Nate Thompson has got tonight.

Preview: Los Angeles Kings (30-21-5) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (32-22-4)

Game Time: 4:00 PM, FS-W

Hello and welcome to the Dion Phaneuf Era.

Despite the hand-wringing and teeth-gnashing many of us experienced upon the announcement of the trade that’s given us Dion Phaneuf and Nate Thompson, the truth is that they’re here, and now we’ve got to see how they fit.

The biggest impact right away is that Phaneuf’s arrival pushes both Paul LaDue and Kevin Gravel out of the lineup, forcing them to compete instead with Christian Folin for a spot, as all the other defensemen are locked into position. Gravel and LaDue both will have a few more games to prove why they should stay in the lineup, as due to immigration/visa issues, it looks like Phaneuf won’t be able to play until Winnipeg.

We do have Nate Thompson, though, who matched up against the Kings plenty of times during his three seasons on the Anaheim Ducks. It looks like he’ll center the fourth line, where he’s well-cast with Andy Andreoff, although the inclusion of Mike Amadio alongside them seems odd. Putting a guy who’s supposed to be a scorer alongside some gritty guys seems like a misstep — swapping Amadio for Clifford would make more sense, to make the fourth line a pure “energy line”.

We can debate all day whether this trade was needed, or a good idea in general, but at the end of the day, Rob Blake decided to gently shake up this team, and after an embarrassing performance against the Hurricanes, maybe it will help. Phaneuf and Thompson aren’t going to save the Kings’ season — and neither can Jeff Carter single-handedly do it when he returns — but no matter your feelings on the trade, all you can do now is hope they work out.

The Penguins are riding a nine-game winning streak at home after a strong showing on Tuesday against Ottawa. After a shaky start to the season, including times where Matt Murray looked like he was struggling under the weight of being the team’s full-time starter, the Penguins have corrected course and are looking like the scary team — and hopeful Cup three-peat-ers — that they want to be. The Penguins boast the best power play in the league, score more than three goals a game on average, and despite the years-old story of Sidney Crosby being hard to play with, he’s consistently been flanked by young players who excel with him. They’ve got Phil Kessel on the third line. Third line!!

After the debacle in Raleigh, the Kings are starting to slip further down the standings, while the teams ahead of them keep finding ways to get better. Much like the Lightning — and we all saw how that game went — a game against the Penguins is a true test of where you are as a team.

Maybe Tuesday was just a very very (very) off night.


Let’s hope.

Projected Line Combinations

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Kempe - Toffoli
Brodzinski - Mitchell - Clifford
Andreoff - Thompson - Amadio

Muzzin - Doughty
Gravel - Martinez
Forbort - Folin


Pittsburgh Penguins

Aston-Reese - Crosby - Sheary
Hagelin - Malkin - Rust
Guentzel - Sheahan - Kessel
Simon - Rowney - Reaves

Dumoulin - Letang
Maatta - Schultz
Cole - Oleksiak


Opposing Preview: Pensburgh