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Preview: Kings usher in new year against gritty Flyers

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Four-game home stand begins tonight against high-flying Philadelphia

Flyers mascot Gritty
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

How to Watch

Game Time: 6:00 p.m. Pacific Time

TV: Fox Sports West (Kings Broadcast)

Radio: iHeart Radio / LA Kings Audio Network

The Opposition: Broad Street Hockey

What to Watch

  • Tonight marks the beginning of the second half of the season. The Kings closed out the first half Saturday night with a 3-2 loss at Vancouver. After fighting back from a 2-0 deficit for the second time in as many nights, Los Angeles gave up the game winner only 19 seconds after Tyler Toffoli tied the game midway through the third period. The visiting Flyers play their third game in four nights and are in the middle of a six-game road trip which began Saturday night in San Jose. The Flyers lost to the Sharks 6-1, before flying south to face the Ducks, whom they beat Saturday 2-1 in overtime.
  • The Kings are 16-21-4, good for last in both the Pacific Division and the Western Conference. However with a win tonight, Los Angeles could possibly leapfrog out of the cellar past arch-rivals Anaheim and San Jose. This is the King’s 15th game during the month of December, with all but three of the previous 14 played outside the 213. The month began ominously with the team losing their first four games. However the Kings are 5-3-2 since beating the Rangers December 10th. The Flyers are 22-12-5 overall, 9-10-1 on the road. While they are in fourth place in the competitive Metropolitan Division, they still currently hold the first wild-card spot in the East.
  • Tonight marks the beginning of a four-game home stand for the Kings, during which Nashville, Columbus, and Dallas will visit DTLA. In addition to being New Year’s Eve of course, it is also Y2K night at the Staples Center. Fans will receive a Y2K t-shirt as well as 2020 novelty eyeglasses. There will also be a post-game pyrotechnic show. (Memo #1 to LAKings.com webmaster. The team website says there will be “a post-game pyrotechnic show following the game.” Isn’t that redundant?) The 1999-2000 season was the Kings’ first at the newly-opened Staples Center. Bruce Springsteen opened the building with four concerts in October, 1999, and yours truly attended the third night. That year the Kings went 39–27–12–4 finishing second in the Pacific Division before being swept by the Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. The team was led by two future Hall of Famers. Kings GM Rob Blake wore the “C”, while team president Luc Robataille led the team in scoring with 74 points, which placed him 16th in the NHL that year. Lastly, for those readers too young to remember Y2K, ask your parents, and to those readers of a certain age who do remember “the Millennium”, you might be interested to know that the Eagles played Staples New Year’s Eve, 1999.
  • Tonight marks the home debut for 26-year old winger Martin Frk who played the last two games for the Kings after being called up from Ontario, where he was leading the Reign in scoring with 23 points in 26 games. Frk is the only player in NHL history to not have a vowel in his last name. He signed with the Kings as a free agent this summer after playing 98 games with Detroit over the last two years. (He also was briefly claimed on waivers by the Carolina Hurricanes in 2016-17; he played two games for Carolina before being waived and re-claimed by Detroit.) Frk made quite an impression on Kings fans by scoring two goals in his Kings debut Thursday in San Jose. (Memo #2 to LAKings.com webmaster. It’s Tuesday, 10:45 am in Los Angeles and Frk is still not listed on the team’s roster.)
  • The visiting Flyers are led by 2015 first-rounder Travis Konecny, who was selected to play in next month’s All-Star Game in St. Louis. The 22-year old fourth-year center has not disappointed since coming off his entry-level contract and signing a six-year, $33 million deal with the team this summer. Konecny has 34 points in 36 games this season and barring injury is certain to break his career high of 49 points in 82 games set last year. I’ll wager heavily that Kings color man Jim Fox will mention sometime during tonight’s telecast that he and Konecny (as well as Tyler Toffoli) all played junior hockey with the Ottawa 67’s.
  • Our sister site, Broad Street Hockey is no fan of the Flyers power play. Yesterday it posted an article declaring that “[t]he power play has been talked about so much already this season that there’s nothing new to say. It’s been bad, it was bad again, and it will probably continue to be bad.” Now, I know Philly fans have a reputation for complaining, and that they even booed Santa Claus one year at an Eagles game, but the Flyers power play statistically soars over that of the Kings. Philadelphia converts at a 19.6% clip, which ranks 13th in the NHL. In contrast, the Kings power play ranks 30th (next to last) in the league scoring only 12.6% of the time. Additionally, Tampa Bay is not only tied with Edmonton for the league lead in power play percentage at 29.3%, the Lightning also lead the league by scoring .97 power-play goals per game. The “bad” power play of the Flyers ranks ninth in the NHL at .67 power play goals per game, which not only puts them in the top one-third in the league per that barometer, but also far exceeds the Kings power play which also ranks next to last in that statistic, scoring .39 power play goals per game. Similarly, while we’re still on the subject of special teams, the Flyers penalty killing unit successfully kills off 83.8% of the man-down situations it faces, which puts them sixth overall in the NHL. In contrast, the Kings short-handed unit ranks 29th in the league, successfully killing off only 73.8% of penalties. So Philly fans, my question is WHAT ARE YOU COMPLAINING ABOUT?

One final point. As I wrote way back in my preseason goaltending preview, I am not sold on Jack Campbell. We’re halfway through the season and he still has not shown us that he has the capability of being the Kings full-time starter when they inevitably part with Jonathan Quick. While Campbell is a decent backup, he is certainly a drop off from Quick at Quick’s best and in my opinion basically even with Quick even when Quick has just been average. Can anyone confidently assert that Campbell is better than Cal Petersen, who is wasting away down on the farm? I didn’t think so. However, I’ll say one thing, if his short, post-game interview with Carrlyn Bathe following Friday’s comeback in San Jose is any indication, Campbell is a real stand-up guy who exhibits the qualities we love about hockey players.

Here’s wishing all our readers a safe and happy new year and as always GO KINGS GO!

Line-Ups

Los Angeles Kings

Iafallo -- Kopitar -- Toffoli
Kempe -- Lizotte -- Wagner
Frk -- Carter -- Prokhorkin
Clifford -- Amadio -- Luff

Ryan -- Doughty
MacDermid -- Walker
Hutton -- Roy

Quick

Philadelphia Flyers

Giroux -- Couturier -- Voracek
van Riemsdyk -- Hayes -- Konecny
Raffl -- Laughton -- Pitlick
Farabee -- Vorobyev -- Aube-Kubel

Hagg -- Gostisbehere
Provorov -- Niskanen
Sanheim -- Braun

Elliott