Game Day Preview #58, Los Angeles Kings @ Anaheim Ducks
get your preview then make your predictions on tonight’s penalty minutes
Preview: Los Angeles Kings (28-25-4) @ Anaheim Ducks (30-19-10)
Remember last season when the Ducks couldn’t score to save their lives and, for a brief shining moment, looked to be set to miss out on the playoffs? Those were fun times for the rest of us.
Currently holding down the number three slot in the Pacific -- can you believe the Oilers are in second? What a strange world we live in -- the Ducks are in no danger of sliding out of contention. They’re mired in another scoring slump, though. Since the start of the month, they’ve had four games where they’ve only scored one goal, with one of those games being a 1-0 win against the Wild.
Scoring’s come from all over the Ducks, which makes the fact that they’ve all gone cold at once fairly perplexing. They have seven players in the double digits for goals, led by the very under-the-radar Rickard Rakell with 22. Rakell’s already passed his career high in goals and is doing all of it while currently holding down a spot as the Ducks’ third line center.
With Antonie Vermette currently suspended for slashing a linesman, rookie Ondrej Kase has been elevated to the top line for the time being. He logged over fourteen minutes of ice time against the Panthers, which isn’t quite a season/career high, but it’s close. Kase hasn’t benefited from his new linemates yet -- he hasn’t had a point in a month, but there’s probably only so long you can be on a line with Ryan Getzlaf and not score.
The “put the rookie on the top line” experiment hasn’t resulted in any points yet for Adrian Kempe, either, who saw himself bumped to the fourth line as the Kings chased the Panthers last night. The jumbled lines saw the Gaborik/Kopitar/Brown and Pearson/Carter/Toffoli lines reunited, and while they were able to create some pressure, it wasn’t enough to find a win against the Panthers. Kempe will probably be returned to his spot on the top line, at least at the start of the game, but you’d have to imagine that anyone who doesn’t produce will be on a short leash, and that includes the sometimes-too-tentative rookie.
Some of the bottom six players took in practice this morning, and it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Nic Dowd back in tonight. While Andy Andreoff brings -- sigh -- some measure of grit and feistiness to his game, he isn’t a player that Darryl Sutter trusts in all situations. Nic Dowd has spent far more time on the power play (about 87 minutes) than Andreoff, who only has a handful of minutes, or Nick Shore (just under 25 minutes). Andreoff, who doesn’t play on the penalty kill either, takes up a spot from an arguably more talented player who who can play a role on a power play unit. Against a team like the Ducks, penalties will probably be a common sight -- in their two previous meetings this season, the Ducks have taken 14 penalties -- so depriving yourself a player who is serviceable with the man advantage seems short-sighted.
Matchups against these neighboring teams are always an adventure. Hopefully tonight is an adventure in the right direction.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Kempe - Kopitar - Toffoli
Pearson - Carter - Brown
Lewis - Shore - Gaborik
King - Andreoff - Clifford
Forbort - Doughty
Muzzin - Martinez
McNabb - LaDue
Silfverberg - Getzlaf - Kase
Cogliano - Kesler - Shaw
Ritchie - Rakell - Perry
Cramarossa - Thompson - Boll
Fowler - Montour
Lindholm - Manson
Vatanen - Bieksa
Opposing Preview: Anaheim Calling