Game Day Preview #74, Los Angeles Kings @ Winnipeg Jets
Well, it was nice having a fully healthy team while it lasted....
Preview: Los Angeles Kings (40-27-5) @ Winnipeg Jets (43-19-10)
Game Time: 5:00 PM, FS-W
The Kings finally reached the 40-win mark this season thanks to last night’s they’ve-got-it-oh-wait-no-they-don’t win over the Minnesota Wild. If you’re looking for a roller-coaster ride to sum up the Kings’ season, that game had almost everything except for the need to come back after allowing the game’s first goal.
If you thought it was safe to relax after that game, though, I regret to inform you that tonight might be another doozy. In Winnipeg, the Kings find a formidable foe who’s flirted with the top spot in the league, and really only lost their top spot in the Central recently when the Predators started to go on a tear. Still, with 96 points, the Jets are well clear of the third-place Wild (90 points) and are probably locked in to having home-ice advantage for the playoffs.
On deck for the Jets tonight is Patrik Laine, who has two goals and one assist in two games against the Kings this season. Laine is one of the most exciting players in the league to watch right now. He’s tied for the league lead in goals with Alex Ovechkin (each have 43) and he’s riding a 15-game points streak, the longest by a teenager in NHL history. Any other game, I’d be rooting for him to get on the scoresheet. But, hey, maybe he could take tonight off?
Another practice = Another opportunity to fine tune the laser 💥 #LaineLaser pic.twitter.com/D0j3X2Fe9P— Winnipeg Jets (@NHLJets) March 20, 2018
In somewhat of a surprise move, the Jets are starting rookie goaltender Eric Comrie tonight. The Jets have several days off around this game, but are choosing to rest starter Connor Hellebuyck, who has started a very Jonathan Quick-like 57 games so far this season. (Quick’s started 56 and appeared once in relief.) Comrie’s helped lead the AHL’s Manitoba Moose to the top of the Central Division, but has just two NHL starts under his belt. His lone appearance this season was a 6-4 loss to the Florida Panthers in December.
With the Jets fairly locked into position, this game perhaps isn’t as important to them as it is to the Kings, so it’s a good chance for them to rest Hellebucyk and see a little more what Comrie’s made of.
This is the second time the Kings face the Jets this season on the second half of a back-to-back. We may have assumed the worst last time, but the Kings gutted it out for a win. They’re going to want a repeat of that, as the Pacific standings are just as tight as ever.
They’ll be doing it tonight without Trevor Lewis, who left last night’s game after the first period and didn’t return due to an upper body injury.
Lewis won’t play tonight. No timeline yet available. Stevens: “I wouldn’t say it’s long, long-term, but he’s not going to be available today.”— Jon Rosen (@lakingsinsider) March 20, 2018
With Lewis out, it’s most likely that Alex Iafallo draws back in, though where he’ll go in the lineup remains to be seen. John Stevens shifted his lines over the course of the game last night to accommodate Lewis’ injury, and perhaps the most interesting change there was seeing Adrian Kempe take some shifts back on wing, alongside Tanner Pearson and Jeff Carter. Look for Stevens to change things early and often if his post-Trevor Lewis lineup isn’t working out.
Projected Line Combinations
Los Angeles Kings
Rieder - Kopitar - Brown
Pearson - Carter - Toffoli
Iafallo - Kempe - Mitchell
Andreoff - Thompson - Clifford
Forbort - Doughty
Martinez - Phaneuf
Muzzin - Folin
Connor - Scheifele - Wheeler
Ehlers - Stastny - Laine
Perreault - Copp - Little
Tanev - Lowry - Armia
Enstrom - Byfuglien
Morrissey - Myers
Morrow - Chiarot
Opposing Preview: Arctic Ice Hockey