HOW TO WATCH
Game Time: 4:00 PM Pacific
TV: NHL Network, Fox Sports West
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Blueshirt Banter
Two once-promising teams in the basement of the league? Fan favorites being traded away? Everyone waiting for the next shoe to drop? A talented goalie holding his team in more games than they truly deserve to be in?
Sounds pretty familiar for fans of both the Los Angeles Kings and tonight’s opponent, the New York Rangers. While Kings fans adjust to Life Sans Muzzin, Rangers fans are waiting to see where players like Mats Zuccarello, Kevin Hayes, or maybe even Kevin Shattenkirk wind up. The Rangers are a step ahead of the Kings in that they realized last year that a rebuild/retool/what have you was imminent; their official “we’re not where we want to be” letter was released around this time last year. Luc Robitaille, following a similar pattern, sent a message to Kings season ticket holders last week after the Muzzin trade, and while he wasn’t quite as explicit about the rebuild as the Rangers were, he still made it clear that changes—and, therefore, pain—for this franchise are not over yet.
So we have two proud teams, both far from their former glory, muddling through a season where the only reward in sight is a chance at a lottery ball bouncing the exact right way.
The Rangers are no stranger to the win one, lose a few streak that the Kings mostly find themselves on. The Rangers have two three-game winning streaks, one four-game streak, and then not much else other than that. Of course, that’s two more streaks than the Kings, who have one four-game streak of wins. They haven’t won two games in a row since December, when they won four games around the Christmas break.
In the Rangers’ last game, they attempted to come back against the league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning, but couldn’t find the equalizer in the third period. They had a strong game overall, but some mismanagement of the puck is what ultimately did them in. Unforced errors against one of the top teams in the league.
Sound familiar? Sound a lot like the Kings game against the Islanders?
Yeah, I thought so.
Mika Zibanejad leads the Rangers in scoring with 50 points, but everyone else on the team is in a more Kings-y territory. Chris Kreider is second on the team with 39 points. (Anze Kopitar and his 36 points would be tied for third on the Rangers.) After a somewhat prolonged scoring drought, with just one goal in 13 games, Zibanejad has exploded for eight goals and 13 points in his last six games played.
Much like games against other bottom-of-the-league teams, this one against the Rangers should be winnable for the Kings. Even sans Muzzin. They did a good job of holding their own against the Islanders after all, until the dreaded “score and then immediately get scored upon” bug hit them.
Drew Doughty may still talk about the Kings as being playoff material, no matter what the actual numbers say. But lack of talent, cohesion, or competent coaching aside, some of the games on this road trip are highly winnable. This is one of them.
February Road Trip Stats: 0-1-0