Preview: Kings prepare to battle altitude, cold as they face high-scoring Avalanche
How to Watch
Game Time: 5:00 p.m. Pacific Time
Radio: iHeart Radio
The Opposition: Mile High Hockey
What to Watch
The Kings are going to have enough on their hands in today’s game with the Colorado Avalanche facing them across the ice. The Avs are the second highest scoring team in the league, widely expected to be a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. The Kings, meanwhile, well — we all know how excited we get when someone, anyone scores a goal.
But as if the high-scoring Avalanche weren’t enough, the Kings have another problem on their hands: Altitude, altitude, altitude. Players were gassed after Friday’s practice, and both Todd McLellan and several players said that dealing with the altitude was going to be the biggest concern going into the game.
If the beautiful, enormous mountains didn’t give away the fact that this wasn’t your standard playing locale — if the fact that one feels vaguely headache-y and constantly dry of mouth up here didn’t — if the shortness of breath didn’t — then certainly the signage all over Falcon Stadium does the trick to let you know that you are most likely much higher up than usual.
The NHL confirmed that the game’s altitude of 6,621 feet above sea level is a record for a regular season NHL game.
The Kings are coming into this game with a feel-good victory over the Calgary Flames, with five different Kings finding the back of the net. While the Kings surrendered the first goal, they put up two goals in around 40 seconds to take the lead and from there, they never looked back. It was a game that had everything — a spirited Kurtis MacDermid fight, a spirited Kurtis MacDermid goal, and an overall strong performance from the Kings, who took a while to find a way to get past Calgary goaltender David Rittich, but once they did, that was the game.
Meanwhile, Thursday night in Denver, the Colorado Avalanche surrendered a 2-0 lead to the Washington Capitals, eventually losing 3-2. Since I was in town, I decided to do a little bit of opposition research prior to today’s game. The Avalanche/Capitals matchup was a good, albeit cautious, game between the two best teams in the league — shots were limited on the part of both teams, and neither team put on quite the high-octane performance you’d expect from them. So the Avalanche might not have anything to prove — we all know they’re darn good — but they do likely have a sour taste in their mouth that they’d love to erase with a win over the Kings today.
The Avalanche are led in scoring by Nate MacKinnon, who has 80 points in 56 games. That’s good for fourth in the league. The Avs have depth scoring, too, which is one of the things that makes them truly dangerous. And while some of that depth will be tested with the injury to Nazem Kadri (a lower body injury will have him out for “weeks”, per the team), they still have players like Joonas Donskoi (14 goals), Valeri Nichushkin (11 goals), Matt Nieto (8 goals), and others outside of their top line who can contribute. Not to mention rookie phenom Cale Makar on the blue line, whose 42 points are second among first year players. (42 points would place him second on the Kings.)
With Todd McLellan running all 23 players through lines and combinations on Friday, and with his note that he will be dressing everyone for warmups, it’s tough to get an idea of who will actually take the ice. Jonathan Quick was the first goaltender off the ice at practice and is all but confirmed to start, making him the starter for each of the outdoor games the Kings have played in.
This is the third outdoor game for the Kings, following the 2014 Stadium Series held at Dodger Stadium, and the 2015 Stadium Series at Santa Clara’s Levi’s Stadium. The Kings are 1-1-0 in outdoor games. This is the Avalanche’s second outdoor game; they previously hosted the 2016 Stadium Series at Coors Field, losing in that matchup to the Detroit Red Wings.